By Tim Devaney - 10/25/14 02:43 PM EDT
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a drone?
Companies are chomping at the bit for a chance to use commercial drones they believe could revolutionize their business, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) considers loosening the ban on these unmanned aerial devices.
Drones have already hit the big screen in Hollywood, where the FAA last month gave a handful of filmmakers permission to use them on movie sets.
Filmmakers will now be able to shoot from new never-before-seen angles.
This could be a sign of things to come. In the words of Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony FoxxFeds issue cybersecurity guidelines for automakers Great Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system Feds create advisory panel for self-driving cars MORE, Hollywood is “blazing a trail” for other industries to use commercial drones.
Prior to giving filmmakers permission, the FAA had only approved commercial drones to be used by two oil companies that operate in remote regions of Alaska.
Oil companies are clamoring for permission to more widely use commercial drones to detect pipeline leaks and inspect offshore facilities. Utility companies could use drones to monitor power lines.
Energy companies say using drones to conduct these inspections would be safer than using people, taking their employees out of harms way.
Some real estate agents are already using drones to showcase homes they are selling in violation of the FAA’s rules.
While real estate agents can photograph the kitchen, bedrooms, and living room on their own, drones can provide unique aerial views of a home and its surrounding neighborhood.
“For realtors trying to sell really large properties, this would be less costly than hiring a helicopter to fly overhead,” says Jenny Werwa, spokeswoman for the National Association of Realtors.
Farmers say drones could revolutionize the industry, creating more efficient farms.
Drones would help farmers increase their yields, says RJ Karney of the American Farm Bureau Federation. They could use these devices to survey their fields to find crop damage and see if there is too much water in one area, or not enough fertilizer in another spot.
Ranchers could also use drones to see where cattle are grazing or find a lost sheep, rather than covering thousands of acres on horseback.
Eventually, farmers may even be able to use drones to spray fields with anything from water to pesticides.
Online retailers like Amazon have made the most noise about using drones to deliver packages.
Bill McClellan, vice president of government affairs at the Electronic Retailing Association, says this could improve same-day delivery speeds.
“If you order a t-shirt, instead of waiting two or three days, you’ll get it in two or three hours,” he said.
Beyond Amazon, any number of companies could use drones to make deliveries from grocery stores and restaurants to the local flower shop. The possibilities are endless.
Drones could capture unique photos of athletes from football and basketball players to surfers, skiers and bikers.
For instance, the Washington Nationals got into hot water with the FAA earlier this year for using a drone to photograph baseball players during spring training.
Drones have also been spotted at NFL games.
Security firms could replace stationary cameras with drones that roam around facilities they are protecting, eliminating blind spots and taking security guards out of harms way.
Law enforcement agencies could also use drones to track down criminals, secure the border and conduct search-and-rescue missions.