The Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) must publish regulations that provide guidelines on the use of UAS for commercial operations. In June, amidst its recent enforcement actions, the FAA issued its first commercial authorization for mapping UAS over land in the U.S. The FAA issued a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (CoA) to BP to conduct aerial surveys in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. According to a Wall Street Journal article, AeroEnvironment spokesman Steve Gitlin said it took about a year and considerable financial investment to win FAA approval for the BP project. Curt Smith, a director in BP’s technology office, said that manned aircraft are sometimes less expensive per flight than the AeroVironment devices, but that the drones will gather far more data, enabling BP to operate “more effectively, more safely, and at a lower cost.”
The FAA announced that last summer that it issued restricted category type certificates to the Puma and Insitu’s Scan Eagle, another small UAS. The certificates were limited to aerial surveillance only over Arctic waters. The FAA recently modified the data sheet of the Puma’s restricted category type certificate to allow operations over land after AeroVironment showed that the Puma could perform such flights safely.
The FAA announced on June 20 that Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi became the fourth of six UAS test sites to become operational. The other five UAS test sites are Griffiss (NY) International Airport, North Dakota Department of Commerce, State of Nevada, University of Alaska, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
More information are available here.