Feds OK Commercial Drone Flights Over Land

'Puma' will keep watch over BP's pipelines in Alaska

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 10, 2014 8:02 PM CDT
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(Newser) – The aircraft now keeping an eye on BP's pipelines near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, has an unusual way of taking off: It gets thrown. That's because it's a drone called Puma, and it happens to be the first drone approved for commercial flights over land in the US, reports AP. Maker AeroVironment and BP got FAA approval to make use of the craft's 3D cameras to monitor pipelines, roads, and equipment in remote areas. The flights began on Sunday.

AeroVironment designed the drone for military use, but with the campaigns in Iraq and now Afghanistan winding down, the company is exploring commercial options. The FAA approval is a milestone not just for the firm but for the industry, says the LA Times. AeroVironment signed a five-year contract with BP, and it's a safe bet that far more commercial drones will be in the air by the time it runs out. (Though probably not for your Amazon purchases just yet.)

An AeroVironment Puma drone getting launched.
An AeroVironment Puma drone getting launched.   (AP Photo/BP Alaska)
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