The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may allow a handful of filmmakers to fly non-military drones.
The FAA currently bans the use of drones for commercial purposes, but the agency is studying the possibility of allowing them to be operated alongside passenger airlines.
The agency said Monday that it is considering a petition from seven film companies for an exemption to the current drone ban. The request is being supported by the Motion Picture Association of America.
"If the exemption requests are granted, there could be tangible economic benefits as the agency begins to address the demand for commercial [Unmanned Aerial Systems] operations," the FAA said in a news release. "However, all the associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated. The petitioner must still obtain operational approval from the FAA."
The FAA is under pressure to approve the use of commercial drones quickly.
Congress has required the agency to develop a plan for boosting the use of drones in the United States by 2015. The FAA is in the process of selecting six sites to test the interaction between drones and passenger airplanes.
Online companies like Amazon have been clamoring for the availability to use drones to speed up delivery times.
The technology originally was sought by police and other law enforcement groups. However, it has drawn criticism from privacy advocates who raised concerns about increased surveillance.
The FAA has shut down drone operations by groups as varied as an Internet beer company and the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team in recent months.
The agency said Monday that it was working quickly to complete its drone testing and considering exemption requests from other industries besides filmmakers.
"The FAA has been working for several months to implement the provisions of Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and move forward with UAS integration before proposing a small UAS rule," the agency said.
"Companies from three industries besides film production have approached the FAA and are also considering filing exemption requests," the FAA statement continued. "These industries include precision agriculture, power line and pipeline inspection, and oil and gas flare stack inspection."