ULC Robotics lands FAA drone certification

ULC Robotics President Greg Penza.

A Long Island robotics developer has earned the Federal Aviation Administration’s permission to operate unmanned aerial systems below 400 feet anywhere in the United States.

The Section 333 Exemption gives ULC Robotics an FAA Certificate of Authorization allowing it to pilot commercial drones in U.S. airspace without any further permissions.

According to aviation law, operation of any aircraft in the national airspace requires a certified and registered aircraft, a licensed pilot and operational approval. Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 gives the U.S. Secretary of Transportation authority to grant an “airworthiness certificate” to individual drone operations – or operators – on a case-by-case basis.

ULC Robotics, a leading energy services and R&D firm focused on utility industries, will use drones to perform aerial inspections and surveys of difficult-to-access structures. The company will also use UASs to monitor for gas leaks along transmission pipelines and assess emergency responses, the company said in announcing the Section 333 Exemption.

ULC Robotics’ unmanned aerial inspection program is backed by a “team of expert UAS consultants who will integrate professional-grade UASs with carefully selected sensors to ensure the highest-quality inspections,” noted ULC Robotics President and CEO Gregory Penza.

“The FAA Section 333 Exemption is an exciting development for our company and another cutting-edge innovative process we can deploy to benefit our clients and their customers,” Penza said in a statement.

The license to drone is another big win for ULC Robotics, which launched in 2001 and has grown into a leading international supplier of automatons and related systems for energy and utility industries.

In November, the company announced the trial run of the first-ever robots designed specifically to work inside active gas mains. The Cast Iron Robotic Repair Inspection System was designed in collaboration with U.K. utility SGN, and testing is currently underway inside the utility’s 74,000 kilometers of cast-iron pipelines.

Now add drone operations to ULC Robotics’ growing list of automaton services, facilitating “myriad uses that utility industries and energy businesses can fully benefit from,” according to Aubrey Anderson, head of the Hauppauge firm’s UAS operations.

“Using unmanned aerial inspections to monitor gas pipelines or electrical lines allows utilities to gather critical data from hard-to-access infrastructure while reducing costs and keeping workers safe,” Anderson noted.

Since September 2014, the FAA has issued more than 4,000 Section 333 Exemptions to commercial applicants across the United States. ULC Robotics plans to start drone-inspection demonstrations in June, the company said.

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