Inhofe, Booker Introduce Bipartisan Amendment to Allow Drone Use for Critical Infrastructure Needs

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) today introduced amendment #3492 to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act (H.R. 636) that would ensure operators of critical infrastructure are able to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to assist with compliance of existing federal regulations and to respond to natural disasters. 

“Recent advancements made with drone technology gives companies with large-scale critical infrastructure the opportunity to more safely and cost effectively maintain their operations,” said Inhofe. “Whether it is an energy company delivering resources via a pipeline or a utility company maintaining electric transmissions, critical infrastructure owners and operators are responsible for a network that often stretches across thousands of miles and impacts millions of Americans. My bipartisan amendment will allow companies to use drones in order to best guarantee their services are meeting  federal regulations or to more quickly respond to disruptions caused by natural disasters. I appreciate Sen. Cory Booker for joining me on this common-sense solution to help critical infrastructure owners and operators safely deliver reliable resources across the nation.” 

“UAS technology has a lot of potential, including uses that help inspect and maintain critical infrastructure like roads, bridges, and electric lines while keeping workers out of harm’s way,” said Booker, who introduced the bipartisan UAS Modernization Act last year. “From inspecting pipelines to protecting energy resources, this amendment directs the FAA to establish clear rules of the road that allow our country to move safely and efficiently into the 21st century and reap the vast benefits of this technology. I’m pleased to join Senator Inhofe on this important bipartisan amendment and appreciate his leadership.”

The amendment as filed includes changes to S. 2684 to ensure all aspects of critical infrastructure networks are included; expands allowable activities to include the construction, maintenance, and protection of critical infrastructure; and allows the use of UAVs for compliance with state or local government regulations and industry best practices in addition to federal regulations. Finally, the amendment ensures electric energy infrastructure owners and operators would be able to participate.

The amendment has garnered the support from the following groups: the Small UAV Coalition, the National Rural Electric Cooperatives, the American Public Power Association, Edison Electric Institute, CTIA - The Wireless Association, the American Gas Association, the American Public Gas Association, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the American Petroleum Institute, the Association of Oil Pipelines, and the American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and 3D Robotics.

Background

On March 15, Inhofe introduced S. 2684, UAVs for Energy Infrastructure Act, which would direct the Secretary of Transportation to develop a process that would allow companies operating critical infrastructure, such as energy pipelines, to use an unmanned aircraft beyond visual line of sight to conduct any activity already allowed to be accomplished with manned aircraft. This would include conducting surveys required for pipeline construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation, as well as maintaining compliance with federal regulations that require periodic patrolling of pipeline rights-of-way to prevent encroachment, unauthorized excavation, evidence of leaks or any other conditions that might jeopardize the safety of the pipeline.

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