FAA ready to approve drones for Hollywood

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The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday is expected to approve permits allowing seven film production companies to use drones.

The move could give a major shot in the arm to the use of nonmilitary drones, which is still largely illegal in the United States.

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Earlier this year, seven film companies filed a petition asking the FAA to let them use the drones — technically known as unmanned aerial systems — to get broad, sweeping shots for their movies and television shows. The request was supported by the Motion Picture Association of America. 

The FAA has asserted that it is illegal to operate a drone for commercial purposes under current law.

The agency is working on new rules to change that, however, which are due out by next year.

In the meantime, the agency has the power to grant specific exemptions allowing some companies to use drones in certain circumstances. The first exemption was granted just this summer, allowing oil giant BP to use drones to survey pipelines in Alaska.

If the film companies do get an exemption on Thursday, other companies will be right behind, clamoring to hop on board.

Amazon and Google are among the companies that have announced plans to test using drones to deliver people’s goods, as a replacement for the mail.

In recent months, the FAA has shut down multiple operations from companies including the Washington Nationals baseball team to an online beer delivery service.

This story was updated at 12:17 p.m.