The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Tuesday it has approved the first commercial drone approved to fly over U.S. land.
The drone, manufactured by AeroVironment, is contracted to BP and will fly aerial surveys over Alaska’s North Slope.
AeroVironment flew the first commercial flight for its Puma AE drone on Sunday to survey BP pipelines, roads, and equipment at Prudhoe Bay, according to the FAA.
The FAA said BP hopes to target maintenance activities, in an effort to save time, improve safety, and increase reliability in the sensitive North Slope environment.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who oversees the FAA, said “These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft. The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”
BP awarded AeroVironment a five-year contract for drone services.
The services include pipeline inspection, 3-D road mapping, analysis of gravel pits, and monitoring wildlife and ice floes.
AeroVironment’s CEO Tim Conver said the drones will help BP “manage its extensive Prudhoe Bay field operations in a way that enhances safety, protects the environment, improves productivity and accomplishes activities never before possible.”