API, AFPM applaud FAA bill’s oil and gas drone use provision

American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers officials separately expressed their pleasure as the US Senate approved a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill with language permitting the use of unmanned aircraft for oil and gas operations.

The Senate’s 89-4 vote on July 13 sent the measure to the White House for US President Barack Obama’s signature days before the FAA’s current reauthorization was to expire on July 15.

Making drone technology available to producers, pipelines, and refinery and petrochemical plant operators will help the industry achieve its goal of zero incidents, API Midstream Director Robin Rorick said following the Senate’s action.

“Drone technology will complement the comprehensive safety practices that the industry has in place to ensure that all Americans continue to enjoy the affordable, reliable fuels they depend on,” Rorick said. “The ability to use drones will allow the industry to use the latest technologies to continue to effectively monitor infrastructure and facilities while minimizing the risk to personnel.”

AFPM Pres. Chet Thompson separately said that drones are an incredible asset to the association’s member companies, and the unmanned aircraft’s responsible use should not be restricted. “Today’s decision by Congress to include language in the FAA Reauthorization bill that allows their use will help to improve safety and reliability at our refining and petrochemical facilities,” he said.

AFPM said the US Department of Transportation and the FAA finalized operational rules for small unmanned aircraft systems on June 21 that did not permit drones to fly beyond the line of sight or allow nighttime operations.

The FAA reauthorization bill passed by Congress not only acknowledges the important role of drones operating over critical infrastructure, but makes an important legislative fix to the final rule, allowing owners and operators to fly drones over their facilities beyond the line of sight during daytime or nighttime hours, the trade association said. “This important provision will strengthen energy security and critical infrastructure resilience nationwide,” it said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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