The Federal Aviation Administration took a big step on Tuesday in easing restrictions on commercial drone use in the US. For the first time, the government agency gave permission for a commercial drone to fly over land.
The approval went to drone maker AeroVironment and BP energy corporation. The FAA will allow AeroVironment to fly unmanned Puma aircrafts over Prudhoe Bay in Alaska — home to the largest oilfield in North America — to survey pipelines, roads, and equipment for BP.
The Puma is a small, hand-launched drone that is four and a half feet long with a wingspan of nine feet. It is equipped with a sensor payload that picks up images and data that can then be processed into 3D computerized models. Also, because the Puma can fly low — 200 to 400 feet above the ground — and slow — less than 40 knots — it’s able to gather extremely accurate location data.