WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration has given approval for energy
corporation BP and unmanned aircraft systems manufacturer
AeroVironment to fly an AeroVironment Puma AE for aerial surveys in
Alaska—the first time the FAA has authorized a commercial UAS operation
“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
The Puma AE is a small, hand-launched UAS that is about 4 1/2 feet
long and has a wingspan of 9 feet. Using the information generated by
the Puma’s sensors, BP hopes to target maintenance activities on
specific roads and infrastructure, which will save time and support
safety and operational reliability goals, while helping to protect the
sensitive North Slope environment.
Last summer, the FAA issued restricted category type certificates to
the Puma and Insitu’s Scan Eagle, another small UAS. The certificates
were limited to aerial surveillance only over Arctic waters. The FAA
recently modified the data sheet of the Puma’s restricted category type
certificate to allow operations over land after AeroVironment showed
that the Puma could perform such flights safely.
“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
U.S. news operations and film makers have been considering drones while journalism labs experimented with them. All have been put on hold until the FAA can come up with applicable regulations. The agency in April activated the first official test site for the unmanned aircraft.
Feds Fire Up First Drone Test Site, TV Technology, April 21, 2014.
Choppers vs. Drones for ENG, TV Technology, April 28, 2014.
Hollywood Asks for Drone Exemptions, TV Technology, June 3, 2014.