BP, the international oil and energy giant, will now routinely use drones to patrol their Alaskan oil fields. Earlier this week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that BP and unmanned aircraft manufacturer AeroVironment received permission to use drones for flyovers of the Prudhoe Bay oil field, reports Neal Ungerleider of www.fastcompany.com.
AeroVironment’s primary product, a four-foot-long vehicle called the Puma, resembles an overgrown model aircraft and contains sophisticated electro-optical and infrared sensors for ground surveillance.
For the past few years, BP has been testing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a way to monitor their oil fields and pipelines in Prudhoe Bay. With very few nearby residents and little air traffic, Prudhoe Bay poses few logistical or safety hazards. Because BP is still reeling from the negative effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill, testing drones in Alaska is a relatively risk-free way of exploring the feasibility of more widespread use. The video below shows BP’s experiments with another drone, the Aeryon Scout, in Prudhoe Bay in 2012.