FAA issues first permit for drone flight over land

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has authorized for the first time the use of drone over land with the issuance of a permit to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in mapping oilfield pipelines, equipment and roads in Alaska.

UAS manufacturer AeroVironment was authorized to fly an AeroVironment Puma AE for aerial surveys of energy company BP’s Prudhoe Bay oil field, the largest oil field in North America, for a five-year period, the FAA said on Monday. The first UAS flight in the area took place on Sunday.

The Puma AE is a small, hand-launched and battery-run UAS that is about 4 1/2 feet long and with a wingspan of 9 feet. It has built-in infra-red sensors or Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) that generate image and information BP needs for maintenance activities on specific roads and infrastructure in its oil field. The collected data will help BP manage its extensive Prudhoe Bay field operations in a productive and safe manner, according to FAA.

It was also the AeroVironment that received the first permit to fly a UAS over water in the U.S. FAA issued the permit for surveying Arctic waters last summer.

AeroVironment successfully demonstrated mapping and inspection services incorporating UAS at the Prudhoe Bay field in September 2013 under a public certificate of authorization through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Its 3D road mapping, 3D gravel pit volumetric analysis, visual and 3D pipeline analysis, general topography and environmental monitoring services are able to support wildlife protection, ice floe monitoring, search and rescue and oil spill response. The company also demonstrated inspection of critical infrastructure, including flare stacks, tanks, bridges and power lines.

AeroVironment has produced and delivered nearly 25,000 small and replacement UAS to the U.S. and other countries.

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