2018 OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE MONTANA PETROLEUM ASSOCIATION
Commercial UAS Research Vital to Effective Regulation
For the past two legislative sessions,
industry has been at the table
protecting facilities from espionage
e Montana Petroleum Association
has teamed up with others in
natural resource development industries
to prepare a bill dra for the
To date, the only successful regulations
to be signed into law in Montana
pertain to UAS restrictions barring
interference with re suppression
e orts and limiting how information
obtained by UAS surveillance may be
used in legal proceedings.
Many states have now passed some form of regulation for the use
of UAS to protect privacy, including subcategories of protected places
under critical infrastructure. Under the Department of Homeland
Security, there are 16 critical infrastructure sectors that provide
the essential services to our economy, national security, and public
health. Critical infrastructure includes industrial facilities and energy
infrastructure, from pipelines and re neries, to railroads and electrical
Espionage and cyber-attacks have become an increasing concern
for many in the energy industry, especially in the advent of advanced
data collection technology. At the same time, drones o er a wide variety
of cost-saving and safety bene ts to commercial users like those
in critical infrastructure sectors.
How then does industry strike the right balance between protecting
proprietary information and making use of UAS technology?
To e ectively regulate drone use, those weighing in must understand
the technology at hand. Case in point – consider the recent U.S. Senate
hearing with Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
No, Senator Grassley. The fl oppy disc you got in a magazine
offering 30 free hours of ‘America On-line’ is not Facebook.
e Twittersphere had a heyday, but the lack of knowledge displayed
by many of the senators present for the combined Judiciary
and Commerce Committee hearing demonstrates the importance of
sound research ahead of new and additional regulation.
Enter, Jeremy Crowley
Jeremy Crowley is a data scientist, hydrogeologist, and assistant research
professor at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology and
Montana Tech in Butte. He’s also a UAV Pilot helping to shepherd in
some of the most cutting-edge technological research for commercial
UAV/UAS use in the country.
As the instructor of a UAV training program on the Montana Tech
campus, Crowley is helping prepare students for 21st century positions
in many of the age-old industries Tech has specialized in since
In early 2018, Crowley submitted a request for a Memorandum
of Agreement with the Butte-Silver Bow Commissioners for an approved
research and training area at Montana Tech and on county
land to the west of campus.
Tech already has 25 drones on campus, various research groups and
multiple departments putting curricula together for classes on drone
applications for Mining Engineering, Geological and Geophysical
Engineering, Computer Science, and Tech Communication. Plans
are also in the works to establish drone training within the Petroleum
Drone use is federally regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA), which prohibits ight above 400 feet and limits speed
to no more than 100 mph. A Pilot Certi cation is also required for
commercial and government use. e FAA also bars ight beyond
the line of sight, over people not directly participating in the operation,
and at night unless a waiver is obtained.
Crowley, along with a cadre of Tech professors, has applied for FAA
waivers for beyond line of sight, night time ight, and ight over people,
to expand Tech’s research and testing of specialty sensors, in a
highly focused proposal to the FAA. Tech professors also answered a
nationwide call to be a part of the FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation’s
Unmanned Aircra System Integration Pilot Program, a
new initiative that seeks to inform future regulation.
Out of nearly 150 applicants, including giants like Amazon, Lockheed
Martin, and AT&T, only 10 were selected to help test the feasibility
of drone integration into FAA airspace. ough Tech was not
selected as one of the training regions for the pilot program (no pun
intended), Crowley still hopes to put Butte on the map for drone research
and training and plans to apply for a large research grant from
the National Science Foundation.
By Jessica Sena
to provide input on regulation that
would protect the commercial use of
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and
systems (UAS), aka drones, while
and other unwarranted surveillance.
professor at the
Montana Bureau of
Mines and Geology
and Montana Tech