FAA Approves Commercial Drones For Aerial Surveillance

Energy firms will be using the UAVs to monitor ice floe movement in Alaska and keep an eye out for potential oil spills.

The FAA has approved commercial drone flights in U.S. airspace. Under the puntastic headline "One Giant Leap For Unmanned-kind," the agency said two types of UAVs, both weighing less than 55 pounds, would be up in U.S. skies later on this summer. The Scan Eagle X200—one was seen in the hands of the Iranian military last year—and the PUMA from Aerovironment will be allowed to carry out aerial surveillance.

The thumbs-up from the FAA doesn't necessarily guarantee a squadron of TMZ-branded drones buzzing merrily above the bijou residences of Hollywood denizens by lunchtime today. (Although that's not to say that the UAV is not the future of journalism.) The ScanEagle will be used by "a major energy company" to check out ice floe and migrating whale activity around the Alaskan coast, while the PUMA will be supporting emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea. Google has already helped fund an anti-poaching initiative by the World Wildlife Fund that uses drones in Africa and Asia.

[Image: Flickr user snowpeak]

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