FAA Approves First Commercial UAV Flights

BP granted permits for pipeline inspection.

UAV Commercial Puma AE

UAV Commercial Puma AE

AeroVironment

The FAA has given approval for oil company BP and UAV maker AeroVironment to fly an AeroVironment Puma for pipeline surveys in Alaska, marking the first time the agency has authorized commercial UAV operations over land.

"These surveys on Alaska's North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing."

The FAA issued a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization to survey BP pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the largest oilfield in the United States. AeroVironment performed the first flight for BP on June 8.

The Puma AE is a small, hand-launched UAV about 4.5 feet long with a wingspan of 9 feet. Last summer the FAA issued restricted category type certificates to the Puma and Insitu's Scan Eagle, another small UAV. The certificates were limited to aerial surveillance only over Arctic waters.

"The 2012 Reauthorization law tasks us with integrating small UAS in the Arctic on a permanent basis," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "This operation will help us accomplish the goal set for us by Congress."

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