The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued certificates for two types of unmanned aircraft for civilian use. The move is expected to lead to the first approved commercial drone operation later this summer.
Both the Scan Eagle and the PUMA received “restricted category type certificates”which permit aerial surveillance. Prior to the FAA’s decision, the only way the private sector could operate UAS in US airspace was by obtaining an experimental airworthiness certificate which specifically restricts commercial operations.
The PUMA is expected to support emergency response crews for wildlife surveillance and oil spill monitoring over the Beaufort Sea to the north of Canada and Alaska. The Scan Eagle will be used by a major energy company off the Alaskan Coast to survey ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas.
The issuing of the certificates is seen as an important step to integrating UAS into US airspace. Both drone operations will meet the requirements of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which includes a mandate to increase Arctic UAS commercial operations.