BP, the oil and energy company, received the first FAA early-use approval to fly Puma UAVs in and around Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
Puma’s are small, weighing only 13 pounds. They are 4’7” long with a wingspan of 9’ and manufactured by AeroVironment. The battery version can fly for 3-1/2 hours while the solar-powered version can fly for more than 9 hours.
BP says that their single Puma drone will be used for monitoring specific maintenance activities on roads, oil pipelines, and other infrastructure. Industry publication Oil & Gas Financial Journal added that the UAV is designed to aggregate data for BP, including integrating photographs and sensor information into 3-D models of roads, pads, and pipelines, along with precision volumetric measurement, and topographic analysis of the company’s gravel pits.
This is the first of what many expect to be a steady stream of approvals for the use of commercial UAVs in low-population areas of the U.S. Prudhoe Bay has little air traffic and fewer safety hazards.