A small drone made in Simi Valley became the first unmanned aircraft to operate in a commercial application under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.
The Puma AE, made by AeroVironment Inc., in Monrovia, was used by BP Exploration Inc. in Alaska to fly over the Prudhoe Bay oilfield, the company announced Tuesday.
The Puma is a hand-launched aircraft that saw extensive reconnaissance use by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the reduction of U.S. forces in those countries, AeroVironment has been looking for new markets for its drones, which includes the Puma, Raven and Wasp models, all developed, manufactured and tested at the company’s Simi Valley facilities.
Using the Puma to scan the BP oil field to produce imagery and data for processing into 3-D computerized models of roads, pads and pipelines is an important achievement in showing how the aircraft can be used in commercial operations, said AeroVironment Chief Executive Tim Conver.
“Our team has established a model for delivering this flexible and efficient information service to a wide variety of customers and industries throughout the world for whom better information, safety and reliability matter,” Conver said in a prepared statement.
Shares closed down 67 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $34.76 in trading on the Nasdaq.