Sky-Futures USA, a Houston-based company offering drone inspection services to the oil and gas industry, has been awarded a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Section 333 Exemption.
Through the exemption, the company is permitted to operate Ascending Technologies’ Falcon 8 drone over land and water for oil and gas inspections.
The Sky-Futures business, headquartered in London, has a footprint of over 30 clients globally and works in over 10 countries. Now, with the FAA authorization, it can begin commercial operations in the U.S. – what it calls the biggest potential single-source marketplace for drone technology. In January, Sky-Futures was granted U.K. Civil Aviation Authority National Qualified Entity status.
According to the exemption grant, the company’s petition (published in the Federal Register in September) was supported by seven commenters, one being the Small UAV Coalition (of which Sky-Futures is a member), and opposed by two, the Air Line Pilots Association and the National Agricultural Aviation Association. Michael Drobac, executive director of the coalition, said in a statement, ‘This is an exciting day for the innovators at Sky-Futures and a great day for the industry.’
Heading up the Sky-Futures USA team is Jason Forte, vice president of business development, who is a veteran pilot of the U.S. Air Force, where he amassed over 6,500 hours flying both manned and unmanned aircraft. Having worked as an engineer in the Gulf of Mexico after his military career, he also has oil and gas credentials.
“Now that Sky-Futures USA can operate commercially, this technology will provide jobs, promote innovation and most importantly, lead to improved safety for the oil and gas market in America,” comments Forte. “Our unique blend of veteran unmanned technology expertise and significant oil and gas experience is already enhancing safety with proven savings of $4 million-plus for offshore drone inspections.”
“We have been preparing for the Section 333 exemption for some time in the USA, with clients ready to commission work upon approval,” says Chris Blackford, global operations director and co-founder of Sky-Futures. “As a result, the approval granted today allows Sky-Futures USA to immediately begin delivering its cutting-edge drone technology service to cut cost, boost efficiency and improve safety on U.S. oil and gas infrastructure in America.”
The full exemption grant can be found here.