July 26, 2021

Volume XI, Number 207


July 26, 2021

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Cleared for Takeoff: Senate Bill Could Pave Way for Use of Drones in Pipeline Operations

The UAVs for Energy Infrastructure Act (S.2684), sponsored by Senator Jim Inhofe and introduced on March 15, would allow oil and natural gas pipeline operators to use drones to conduct any activity that manned aircraft already perform. This bill would allow pipeline owners and operators to use unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones) to monitor compliance with existing federal regulations, as well as to respond to emergencies, natural disasters or severe weather events. The Senator reportedly plans to include the bill in the Federal Aviation Administration authorization legislation.

Senator Inhofe explained that, “[e]nergy companies that maintain critical infrastructure, such as pipelines, are required to comply with significant monitoring regulations across thousands of miles of their infrastructure network. This legislation would establish a process to allow companies to use unmanned aircraft to meet monitoring requirements, which can currently be done with manned aircraft, on foot or in vehicles. This legislation also enhances the safety of our energy infrastructure by allowing companies to quickly respond to emergencies and other events with unmanned aircraft to assess on-the-ground conditions without unnecessarily risking human lives.”

If passed, this bill would enable pipeline owners and operators to use drones to more efficiently:

  • Monitor pipeline construction, maintenance, and repair, with minimal interruption for employees
  • Evaluate internal inspection reports and identify anomalies
  • Detect evidence of leaks or other conditions without endangering human lives
  • Respond to leaks and other incidents in a timely manner
© 2021 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 84

About this Author

Paul Drucker Environmental Attorney

Clients call on Paul Drucker to handle high-profile litigation and appeals, complex internal investigations concerning environmental incidents, environmental due diligence for corporate and real estate transactions, and regulatory compliance matters and settlements.

Paul is adept at helping clients develop comprehensive legal strategies that take into account their business operations, their commercial interests and their desire to be in compliance with applicable statutes and regulations. Paul’s ability to analyze and streamline complex problems and develop understandable and...


Jill M. Fortney is an associate in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and a member of the Litigation and Environmental Departments.

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Paul N. Garinger is of counsel in Barnes & Thornburg's Columbus office and a member of the firm's Litigation Department and Pipeline Practice Team. He concentrates his practice on complex commercial litigation before state and federal trial and appellate courts.

Paul has focused his practice in the area of oil and gas law and pipeline related issues. Paul's commercial litigation clients have included a multinational energy company in a large-scale federally regulated pipeline project across the state of Ohio, oil and gas exploration and production companies,...

Michael Elam Environmental Energy Attorney

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