The Oil Industry Brings the First Commercial Drones to the US

BP has officially been granted permission to fly commercial drones over Alaska

This past June 10, the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States announced that BP had been granted permission to use unmanned aircraft systems to keep tabs on roads, pipelines, and equipment in Alaska.

Otherwise put, all hail to the oil industry and its convincing the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States to allow it to gift the country with its very first commercial drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration details that the drone BP can now use to survey pipelines, roads, and equipment in Alaska will chiefly serve to monitor the oil field in Prudhoe Bay, which is the largest in the country.

The aircraft, dubbed Puma AE, is expected to help oil and gas giant BP save time and money when it comes to pinning down potential faults in existing infrastructure and assessing the risk for one environmental disaster or another.

“Using the information generated by the Puma’s sensors, BP hopes to target maintenance activities on specific roads and infrastructure,” the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States writes on its website.

“[This] will save time and support safety and operational reliability goals, while helping to protect the sensitive North Slope environment,” the press release on the matter at hand further explains.

To put things into perspective, it need be said that the field in Prudhoe Bay presently accounts for about two thirds of the oil that is produced in Alaska yearly. Hence, one can only assume that maintaining it can prove quite a headache.

The Puma AE, which measures about 4.5 feet (nearly 1.4 meters) in length and whose wingspan is one of 9 feet (2.7 meters), will keep BP carry out this task by collecting imagery and data by means of sensors, the oil and gas giant explains.

The imagery and data will serve to piece together three-dimensional models of the oil field, which BP will then use to pin down areas that are in dire need of maintenance. Hopefully, the oil and gas giant will not settle for just identifying problems, but will also try and fix them.

Commenting on BP's decision to use Puma AE to monitor said oil field in Alaska, Tim Conver with AeroVironment says, “This new solution is now helping 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.”

Furthermore, “This is an important achievement for our joint team and for the industry in demonstrating the safe and effective use of our proven UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] technology for commercial applications.”

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