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U.S. allows first legal commercial drone flight

Posting in Technology

With numerous industries patiently awaiting the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration draft rules on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), the FAA just gave out its first commercial drone permits to two companies.

BP and UAS manufacturer AeroVironment received permission from the FAA to use an UAS for a commercial land operation. BP will use the UAS in order to survey pipelines, roads, and equipment at the largest oilfield in the U.S., in Alaska.

According to the FAA, the BP will use the AeroVironment Puma AE, a small hand-launched UAS, "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."

As we've highlighted before, agriculture and film industries hope they're next to receive approval to use drones. The FAA has a congressional mandate to provide UASs with some U.S. airspace by September 2015. The FAA also just opened the third of six congressionally mandated UAS test sites.

"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 press release. "The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing."

Photo: Flickr/Don McCullough

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— By on June 10, 2014, 10:26 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure