The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) (PDF) required the FAA to:
Initiate a process to work with relevant Federal agencies and national and international communities to designate permanent areas in the Arctic where small unmanned aircraft may operate 24 hours per day for research and commercial purposes and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. The plan for operations in these permanent areas shall include the development of processes to facilitate the safe operation of unmanned aircraft beyond line of sight (BLOS). Such areas shall enable over-water flights from the surface to at least 2,000 feet in altitude, with ingress and egress routes from selected coastal launch sites.
On November 1, 2012, the FAA released its Arctic Implementation Plan (PDF), signed by the Secretary of Transportation, to inform interested parties, operators, Federal agencies, and international communities of its plan to establish permanent operational areas and corridor routes in the Arctic for the operation of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
Since then the following sUAS operations have commenced in the arctic:
- ConcoPhillips began using Insitu's ScanEagle for their marine mammal and ice surveys. September 2013
- BP began using AeroVironment's Puma AE to survey its pipelines, roads, and equipment at Prudhoe Bay, AK, the largest oilfield in the United States. June 2014
- Oil spill exercise in the Beaufort Sea using AeroVironment's Puma AE. June 2014
- Operation Arctic Shield 2015 – an oil spill and search and rescue exercise
For more information:
- Read the white paper Lessons Learned from UAS Arctic Operations in the Summer of 2013 (PDF)
- Read the Arctic Council's White Paper titled Implementing Scientific Data Collection Across the Arctic Oceanic Region Utilitizing Unmanned Aircraft Systems