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UAS maker AeroVironment's Puma AE UAS is used by BP at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska.

UAS maker AeroVironment’s Puma AE UAS is used by BP at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska.

The Federal Aviation Administration will permit energy company BP and unmanned aircraft system (UAS) manufacturer AeroVironment to fly a Puma AE UAS for aerial surveys in Alaska. It’s the first time FAA has authorized a commercial UAS operation 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.”

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, 2014.

The Puma AE is a small, hand-launched UAS that is nearly five feet long and has a wingspan of nine 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.

Image courtesy of BP.

Read the FAA news release.

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