The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by energy giant BP.
The unmanned aircraft will be used to “survey BP pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay, AK, the largest oilfield in the United States,” according to a press release issued by the FAA.
This marks the first occasion in which the FAA has approved unmanned aerial systems – commonly referred to as drones – for commercial use over land.
BP will be using technology built by UAS manufacturer AeroVironment to perform aerial surveys over their North Slope facilities. The company will be deploying an unmanned aircraft called the Puma AE, which is a “hand-launched UAS that is about 4 1/2 feet long and has a wingspan of 9 feet.”
Surveys will be conducted on gravel roads and pads using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and 3D technology, providing high-accuracy information, which BP says will “save time, and address safety and reliability.”