BP takes to the skies with first drone approval

Harriet Green
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BP HAS become the first company to win permission to fly unmanned drones over US soil.

The oil company is flying the AeroVironment Puma drone over Alaska to keep tabs on maintenance requirements at the Prudhoe Bay oil field, of which it owns 26 per cent.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday that this was the first time it had given approval for a non-government drone flight over land.

“These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft,” said the US transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx. “The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”

Last year, the FAA approved the first unmanned flight, allowing ConocoPhillips to use a Boeing Insitu ScanEagle over Arctic waters.

US Congress passed a law in 2012 to put unmanned aircraft on a more even footing with other forms of air transport, but approvals have so far been thin on the ground.

Shares in AeroVironment, which makes the drone used by BP, closed up 4.7 per cent yesterday.

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