Unmanned aerial systems approved for U.S. commercial operation

July 29, 2013 at 3:46 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- Aerial drones are to begin commercial operation in the United States next month following receipt of FAA restricted category type certificates.

The certificates from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration were given for two unmanned aircraft systems -- Insitus' Scan Eagle X200 and AeroVironment's PUMA, which will be used by an energy company.

The company, which the FAA did not identify, plans to fly the ScanEagle off the Alaska coast in international waters. Initial tasks for the drones, which will be launched from a ship, include surveys of ocean ice floes and migrating whales in arctic oil exploration areas.

The PUMA is expected to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea, the FAA said.

The Scan Eagle and PUMA are small drones. Each weighs less than 55 pounds. Each aircraft is about 4 1/2 feet long.

The restricted category type certificates were the first the FAA has issued for commercial use. Previously, the only way a drone could be operated in national air space by the private sector was with an experimental airworthiness certificate, which specifically banned commercial operations.

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