FAA waiver enables drone surveillance of California pipelines

Chevron Pipe Line Company (CPL), a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, and American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI) have received a waiver from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct uncrewed aircraft surveillance. 

The AiRanger Uncrewed Aircraft System (UAS) was designed by AATI to support Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) aerial surveillance for CPL’s pipeline and production facilities.

CPL plans to use the AiRanger in California’s San Joaquin Valley to monitor pipelines and other assets within an approximately 4,300 square mile area. While the initial plan is to use the UAS for pipeline and facility monitoring, CPL says it could have broader applications within the community, such as emergency response to natural disasters or for things like spills, leak detection or ecological surveys.

The system’s capabilities were demonstrated during flight operations in Buttonwillow, California, in October 2023. Following the demonstration and FAA observed testing, the agency issued a 91.113 waiver and granted a 44807 exemption, authorising AATI to use the onboard detect and avoid system to comply with aircraft right of way rules when operating BVLOS. 

The AiRanger UAS is a fixed-wing UAS capable of long-range BVLOS operations. The aircraft weighs 220 pounds with a wingspan of about 18 feet and can fly over 700 miles and up to 17 hours at up to 17,000 feet.

Flights are typically preplanned and automated, but monitored by humans. If they receive notification of potential issues, the controller can have the aircraft take another pass before deciding what action to take, such as deploying a team to remove the threat or dismissing the warning.

The UAS uses machine learning to discover patterns in the data it collects. These patterns are run through modelling which helps the AiRanger get better at “seeing” them. 

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American Aerospace Technologies

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