The energy industry continues to see a marked growth in the use of drones as they provide cost efficient and time-saving services. For example, drones are being utilized as a tool to accurately inspect oil and gas pipelines, survey large property sites and power lines, and monitor oil wells. The oil and gas industry is also using drones for inspection and surveillance of drilling rigs in offshore operations. And, drones can also be used to check pipelines to identify pipe failures or detect methane leaks, conduct integrity surveys of power and utility industry cables and towers, or inspect onshore and offshore wind turbine farms.
More recently, energy companies used drones to support emergency response efforts in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Several drones provided critical aerial inspections to identify risks in areas that were inaccessible due to flooding, downed utility lines, or hazardous conditions. However, even as the benefits and advantages of drones in the energy sector have become more apparent, flying drones in or near the disaster areas without proper authorization may put operators at legal risk. Operators must therefore be cognizant of applicable drone laws, in particular as the domestic legal framework governing drones remains complex and developing.
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