Monrovia-based unmanned aircraft maker Aerovironment said Friday that it has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the use of one of its unmanned aircraft for commercial use. AeroVironment's Puma AE small unmanned aircraft--one of the company's hand-launched unmanned aircraft--can now be flown for commercial missions. AeroVironment said its aircraft can be used for things like oil spill monitoring and ocean surveys in the North Slope region of the Arctic.
The approval is the first time an unmanned drone has been given ability to fly in national airspace for commercial use, the company said. Use of drones in U.S. airspace has been a somewhat controversial topic, in the debate over security versus privacy. In the case of Aerovironment's Puma, the unmanned aircraft had been formerly only used in military operations, for aerial combat support. The Puma weights 13-pounds and can be launched by hand, and does not require any infrastructure to launch or recover.