Each week GeoDataPoint finds a selection of good reads related to hot topics in the geospatial community. This week, the Internet is abuzz over the FAA's approval of the first commercial drone use over land.

The FAA has given approval for energy corporation BP and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) manufacturer AeroVironment to fly an AeroVironment Puma AE for aerial surveys in  Alaska—the first time the FAA has authorized a commercial UAS operation over land.

In the association's press release, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says, “These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft. The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”

Other articles from around the web offer interesting commentary on the decision. The National Law Review offers some legal information pertaining to the ruling and what it means. In their report, Bloomberg BusinessWeek discusses the Puma AE aircraft made by Aerovironment Inc. that was used by BP as well as information on the flight itself in Alaska. And the comments on NPR's post on the issue are worth checking out for anyone interested in what the public thinks about all of this.

The FAA press release says:

"The FAA issued a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization to survey BP pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay, AK, the largest oilfield in the United States. AeroVironment performed the first flight for BP on June 8.

The Puma AE is a small, hand-launched UAS that is about 4 1/2 feet long and has a wingspan of 9 feet. Using the information generated by the Puma’s sensors, BP hopes to target maintenance activities on specific roads and infrastructure, which will save time and support safety and operational reliability goals, while helping to protect the sensitive North Slope environment.

Last summer, the FAA issued restricted category type certificates to the Puma and Insitu’s Scan Eagle, another small UAS. The certificates were limited to aerial surveillance only over Arctic waters. The FAA recently modified the data sheet of the Puma’s restricted category type certificate to allow operations over land after AeroVironment showed that the Puma could perform such flights safely.

“The 2012 Reauthorization law tasks us with integrating small UAS in the Arctic on a permanent basis,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “This operation will help us accomplish the goal set for us by Congress.”
 

Click for more information on UAS and the FAA’s Arctic operations.