Drones “have proven adept at safely and effectively performing aerial surveys, and can be an effective tool for the oil and gas industry,” she said. Hinton said her group believes that more needs to be done to allow for such operations, with limits.
Currently, drones are not allowed to fly in the U.S. except with special permission from the FAA. As demand increases from commercial industries, though, the agency has moved to ease restrictions.
The FAA is working to meet a congressional mandate to integrate U.S. airspace with robotic aircraft by September 2015.
However, the prospect of thousands of unmanned aircraft flying around U.S. airspace in populated areas beginning at that time appears unlikely. The FAA has said that remotely piloted aircraft aren't allowed in national airspace on a wide scale because they don't have an adequate "detect, sense and avoid" technology to prevent midair collisions.
Last summer, the FAA gave away two first-of-their-kind certificates that permitted operators to fly drones for commercial purposes. However, they were in remote areas over water.