AUVSI's Unmanned Systems 2013 opens today (Aug 12) to milestone - the first FAA type certificates allowing commercial flights of unmanned aircraft in civil airspace.
Armed with their industry-first restricted-category type certificates, AeroVironment's 13lb Puma AE and Insitu's 44lb ScanEagle X200 are expected to begin commercial operations this month off Alaska's North Slope.
Both will fly their first commercial missions inside the Arctic Circle, for the energy sector. The hand-launched Puma is to be used to support emergency response crews for oil-spill monitoring over the Beaufort Strait.
A major energy company, reportedly ConocoPhilips, plans ship-launched flights of the ScanEagle over international waters off the Alaska coast, surveying ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas.
Both companies praise the FAA for its cooperation in certificating their UAS. “They have been really willing to work with industry to come up with solutions for adopting and adapting regulations intended for manned aircraft and applying them to unmanned,” says Paul McDuffee, vp government relations and strategy for Insitu.