FAA grants Puma UAV commercial use certificate
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted the AeroVironment Puma AE small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) a Restricted Category rating, clearing the way for the UAV to be operated for commercial missions in the North Slope region of the Arctic.
This is a first-of-its-kind type certificate that will enable the Puma SUAS to conduct missions such as oil spill monitoring and ocean surveys. Prior to this, a potential user could obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate, but the certificate specifically excluded and did not authorise the use of a UAV for commercial operations.
Tim Conver, chairman and chief executive officer, AeroVironment, said: ‘This certificate represents an aviation milestone that could not have happened without the FAA’s vision and leadership. Aerial observation missions can now be safely accomplished in hazardous Arctic locations, which will reduce the risk of manned aviation in an efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner. We believe initial operations in the Arctic can lead to long-term broad adoption for similar applications elsewhere in the US and throughout the world.’
AeroVironment expects Puma AE to be deployed later this summer to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife observation off the coast of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Circle.
Roy Minson, senior vice president and general manager of AeroVironment’s UAS business segment, said: ‘Because Puma is a very quiet aircraft and battery operated it can monitor critical natural wildlife habitats at low altitudes without disturbing the animals or adversely affecting pristine environments.
‘Puma also is very flexible and easy to use because operators can take it anywhere without needing to haul any infrastructure, such as a launcher or recovery device, on the missions. This is especially important for oceangoing vessels, since installing new infrastructure can be a long and costly process.’
The 13-pound Puma AE UAS does not require any infrastructure, such as runways, launching pads, or recovery devices. It is man-portable and can be assembled in minutes, hand-launched and recovered on sea or land.
The FAA stated in its announcement that previous military acceptance of the Puma AE design allowed the FAA to issue the Restricted Category type certificate.
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