Photo and production companies begin petitioning FAA to use drones in U.S. airspace
A small remote-controlled drone hovers in the sky on Feb. 1, 2014 in Middletown, Maryland [AFP]

Seven video production and aerial photo companies have asked for federal permission to use civilian drones in the United States for the first time, the airspace regulator said Monday.

The Federal Aviation Administration said use of these drones could offer "tangible economic benefits" but emphasized that "all the associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated."

The powerful Motion Picture Association of America, which brings together six of Hollywood's largest studios, backed the request, the FAA said.

Aside from the film industry, others -- such as agriculture, power line and pipeline inspection, and oil and gas flare stack inspection -- have approached the FAA and may soon file similar requests.

To get permission to fly, the companies must show their drones would not affect security and that they would be in public interest.

In contrast to other countries, the United States has forbidden commercial use of civilian drones while it develops strict regulations. The FAA plans to allow 7,500 mini-drones in US skies by 2018 and in late December launched testing in six US regions.

According to the drone makers, allowing civilian drones to fly in US airspace could lead to the creation of 100,000 jobs and inject $82 billion into the economy.

A number of public agencies have already been authorized to fly drones for public service purposes, such as for security, rescue or weather forecasting.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]