U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., have introduced an amendment, 3492, to the proposed Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act (H.R.636) that would ensure operators of critical infrastructure are able to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Last month, Inhofe introduced S.2684, the UAVs for Energy Infrastructure Act, which would direct the secretary of transportation to develop a process that would allow companies operating critical infrastructure, such as energy pipelines, to use a UAV beyond the visual line of sight to conduct any activity already allowed to be carried out with manned aircraft.
The amendment, as filed, includes changes to S.2684 to ensure all aspects of critical infrastructure networks are included; expands allowable activities to include the construction, maintenance and protection of critical infrastructure; and allows the use of UAVs for compliance with state or local government regulations and industry best practices, in addition to federal regulations. Finally, the amendment ensures electric energy infrastructure owners and operators would be able to participate.
According to the senators, the amendment has garnered the support from the following entities: 3DR, the Small UAV Coalition, the National Rural Electric Cooperatives, the American Public Power Association, Edison Electric Institute, CTIA – The Wireless Association, the American Gas Association, the American Public Gas Association, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the American Petroleum Institute, the Association of Oil Pipelines, the American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers.
“Recent advancements made with drone technology gives companies with large-scale critical infrastructure the opportunity to more safely and cost-effectively maintain their operations,” explains Inhofe. “Whether it is an energy company delivering resources via a pipeline or a utility company maintaining electric transmissions, critical infrastructure owners and operators are responsible for a network that often stretches across thousands of miles and impacts millions of Americans.”
Booker adds, “From inspecting pipelines to protecting energy resources, this amendment directs the FAA to establish clear rules of the road that allow our country to move safely and efficiently into the 21st century and reap the vast benefits of this technology.”