As promised, here are the five key legal issues you need to consider if you are considering using drones in your Oil & Gas operations:
- Compliance with Federal, State & Local Regulations: Whether your company intends to operate its own UAVs or outsource, compliance with all applicable regulations is crucial. Texas has specific laws regulating use of UAVs and many local governments have restrictions (for example, in 2015, the city of Austin outlawed drone use during its SXSW festival).
- Risk Management: What happens if a UAV goes down? What type of liability insurance is available? Do you avoid liability if your company hires an independent UAV operator? These are just a smattering of issues that would be considered as part of a risk management framework and strategy of oil and gas companies interested in drone capabilities.
- Data Ownership and Privacy: Drones compile massive amounts of data, and they can be hacked. What happens if your data is stolen? In a dispute with your third-party operator, who owns the data? These are contingencies that should be considered and planned for before beginning UAV operations.
- Vendor Contract Management: With all the new services and tools that drone technology can add to the oil and gas sector, new vendors will likely spring-up by the hundreds. These vendors will range from data storage and analysis to aviation vendors that could now start offering their services to the oil and gas industry. Vendor contract management will be important to ensuring smooth operations.
- Human Resources: Whether your company integrates drone pilots as full-time employees or as an outsourced workforce, managing those resources will require planning efforts.