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Unmanned flights approved for commercial use

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AeroVironment Inc., the Pentagon’s number one manufacturer of small drones--the remote controlled (unmanned) planes that have the potential for multiple business applications--disclosed that they have a five year contract to perform routine maintenance services over US land.

This contract is the first commercial application of drones approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and many hope it is a sign of things to come.

AV Inc.'s drone, called Puma AE, will make unmanned flights to perform land surveys across BP Exploration’s Prudhoe Bay oil fields, which is located in the northernmost part of Alaska,.

The drone which takes off after being hand thrown, has a nine feet wingspan, flies at 200 to 400 above ground, and mounted with high tech sensors to supply 3D computerized modeling of roads, equipment, and pipelines.

The Puma AE was originally designed to give American troops the real-time video-like view of what is happening around a bend or over a ridge.

BP, in a test, used the drone to provide real-time video of the road ahead to help in navigating trucks through bad weather that were moving heavy equipment.

A spokesperson at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which is the nations’ largest drone trade group, believes these drones are the perfect tool for providing land surveys for the oil and gas industry.

Additionally, Transportation Sectary Anthony Fox, believe that this business use of the drone proves that broader commercial applications of the unmanned planes should be allowed.

According to the FAA, even though they are pressing to meet the government’s mandate to have more commercial application for the drones integrated by Septemeber 2015, special considering must be given when thinking about flights over populated areas.

The aviation agency states that most drones do not have great collision detection warnings or crash avoidance systems; placing thousands of them in US airspace with others planes is quite a daunting task.

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