Written by: Walter G. Wright, Jr. of the Mitchell Williams Law Firm
The use and functions of unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e, drones) in service industries are rapidly evolving.
Environmental services and/or environmental monitoring/enforcement is an example of an area in which the usefulness of drones is being recognized.
By way of example, as noted in a previous post (see post here), the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality as early as 2018 added drones as a tool in the agency’s environmental protection missions. The three drones employed by the agency are used for activities such as:
- Permit Support Documentation
- Waste and Landfill Inspections
- Legal Dumping of Chemicals, Oil or Waste Tires
- General Emergency Response Functions Involving Facility Discharges, Train Derailments, Truck Accidents, Oil Spills
- Investigations of Unusual Events
An example in the environmental services area is the Little Rock/Springdale firm of Pollution Management, Inc., (“PMI”) which operates a drone for certain environmental/engineering services.
The company states it uses a drone in the engineering area for activities such as:
- aerial imagery (i.e., dam/levee inspections, slope failures, structure layout, etc.)
- Topographic data (civil site layout, flood studies, landfills, industrial site design)
In the environmental area the drone is stated to be utilized for aerial site reconnaissance for areas that are:
- Large areas of land
- Not easily accessible by foot or vehicle
- May not be easily observable due to thick vegetation or other impediments
In other words, drones apparently have certain potential inherent advantages when it comes to their ability to cost-effectively observe for environmental assessment purposes larger or relatively inaccessible areas.
Note that the utilization of drones for income-producing purposes is subject to Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) rules and restrictions. PMI indicates that Professional Engineer Brad Wingfield recently passed his FAA Part 107 aviation exam. As a result, he is certified to pilot drones for commercial purposes.