U.S. Approves First Commercial Drone Flights over Land
    2014-06-11 05:49:40     Xinhua       Web Editor: Wang

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Tuesday that it has authorized for the first time a commercial drone operation over land.

The U.S. aviation regulator said in a statement that it has given approval for oil company BP and unmanned aircraft systems ( UAS) manufacturer AeroVironment to fly a Puma AE drone for aerial surveys in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay area, the largest oilfield in the United States.

The first flight of the Puma AE, a small, hand-launched aircraft that is about 4.5 feet (1.3 meters) long and has a wingspan of 9 feet (2.7 meters), was conducted Sunday to survey pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay for BP, the FAA said.

Using the Puma's sensors, BP hopes to target maintenance activities on specific roads and infrastructure, in an effort to save time and support safety and operational reliability goals as well as protect the sensitive North Slope environment, it said.

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

Last summer, the FAA issued restricted category type certificates to the Puma and Insitu's Scan Eagle, another small UAS, but the certificates were limited to aerial surveillance only over Arctic waters.

The FAA said it 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.

"This is an important achievement for our joint team and for the industry in demonstrating the safe and effective use of our proven UAS technology for commercial applications," Tim Conver, AeroVironment chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Our team has established a model for delivering this flexible and efficient information service, including back office data processing, to a wide variety of customers and industries throughout the world for whom better information, safety and reliability matter."

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