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Why Are Drones Being Deployed In The Arctic Circle?

Hint: It has to do with tracking seals, walruses, and of course, ice.

Why Are Drones Being Deployed In The Arctic Circle?

[Image: U.S. Navy]

According to the FAA, multinational energy giant ConocoPhillips is one of the very first companies to use drones for profit in the Arctic. Earlier this week, the agency announced the energy company now has a small UAV presence in the Arctic Circle for surveying marine mammals and ice. ConocoPhillips, in collaboration with the FAA and Boeing Insitu, is using ScanEagle drones. These are small unmanned aircraft launched by slingshot that stay in the air for more than 12 hours, constantly taking pictures and collecting data.

ConocoPhillips is in the middle of a controversial project to drill oil from the Arctic Circle seafloor, and has encountered resistance from activists worried about the company's prior environmental record. In April, the company announced plans to delay Arctic drilling until 2015; the UAV flights are part of ConocoPhillips's surveying and research efforts before drilling commences.

According to a statement, the FAA sees future potential in drone flights over the Arctic for "scientific research, search and rescue, fisheries, marine mammal observers, oil and gas leaseholders and maritime route planners."