When you think of drones, you probably think of covert military strikes or black ops surveillance. Some of you might even think of Amazon’s drone delivery system:
So it comes as a surprise to most people hearing that the Federal Aviation Administration approved the first commercial use of drones to none other than oil mega-giant British Petroleum, better known as BP.
The drone, designed by California-based drone manufacturer AeroVironment, made its first commercial flight in Alaska this past Sunday (6/8/2014).
The drone is a Puma-AE (All Environment) model, which is actually one of the most widely-used models in the U.S. military. It measures five feet long and has a 9-foot wingspan.
AeroVironment agreed to a five-year contract with BP. Though the drone will do some 3D-mapping and wildlife monitoring (as well as the occasional search-and-rescue mission), its main purpose will be to patrol hundreds of miles of oil pipelines in Alaska.
One of the main reasons that the FAA gave BP approval for the drone is that it will be flying predominantly over uninhabited wilderness; using drones in urban areas raises many more questions about safety and privacy.
Despite the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board actually ruled in March that the FAA had no jurisdiction to regulate small autonomous and remote-controlled aircraft, this approval suggests that the FAA intends to do just that.
Read more from Gizmodo here.