Inhofe Introduces Legislation to Allow Drone Use by Energy Infrastructure Operators

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today introduced UAVs for Energy Infrastructure Act (S.2684), legislation to ensure critical infrastructure operators, including energy pipeline operators, are able to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to assist with compliance of existing federal regulations and to respond to natural disasters.

“Energy companies that maintain critical infrastructure, such as pipelines, are required to comply with significant monitoring regulations across thousands of miles of their infrastructure network,” Inhofe said. “This legislation would establish a process to allow companies to use unmanned aircraft to meet monitoring requirements, which can currently be done with manned aircraft, on foot or in vehicles. This legislation also enhances the safety of our energy infrastructure by allowing companies to quickly respond to emergencies and other events with unmanned aircraft to assess on-the-ground conditions without unnecessarily risking human lives.”

“The number one goal of the oil and natural gas industry is zero incidents, and unmanned aerial system technologies provide enormous potential to improve the safe operation of all oil and natural gas infrastructure through the ability to safely conduct preventative inspections, maintenance, repairs, and response activities. We applaud Senators Inhofe and Moran for their visionary work by taking a positive step towards allowing UAS utilization for pipeline inspection, maintenance and response activities.” – Robin Rorick, group director of Midstream and Industry Operations at the American Petroleum Institute

“Drones hold the possibility for additional high tech inspection of pipelines from the air. The Inhofe bill to break down regulatory barriers to using drone technology to keep pipelines safe is welcome legislation.” – Andy Black, president of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines.

“For many years, federal safety regulations have required natural gas transmission pipelines to patrol their rights of way using manned aircraft. Unmanned aircraft offer natural gas pipelines a 21st century solution to this regulatory requirement, a solution that can be more effective in numerous ways. This legislation will allow pipelines to use this new technology.” –Martin Edwards, vice president of legislative affairs at the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America

Background

S. 2684 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.

The bill would direct the use of unmanned aircraft for activities necessary to inspect or repair critical infrastructure and also allow the use of unmanned aircraft in response to or in preparation for a natural disaster or severe weather event that may damage critical infrastructure.

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