Drones in the Arctic: New Tools for Risky Drilling?
Environmentalists cheered the news in April that ConocoPhillips had halted its plans for risky Arctic drilling. However, any fears that its stopping of fossil fuel exploitation in the harsh environment was only temporary may be confirmed by a move this month by the oil and gas giant.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), ConocoPhillips launched the first FAA-approved commercial drone flight into the Arctic air above the Chukchi Sea on September 12.
A research vessel carried four drones made by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, “a pioneer leader in the design, development, production and operation of high-performance, cost-effective unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).”
One ScanEagle drone, what Institu describes as a “go-to solution for civilian and military customers,” carried out “marine mammal and ice surveys necessary to meet environmental and safety rules before drilling on the sea floor.”
Ed Crooks reported in the Financial Times that “Conoco said ScanEagles could be used to monitor ice floes and whale movements, keeping it informed of potential threats or environmental risks while drilling in Arctic seas.”
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