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FAA's New Proposal On Commercial Drone Use Draws Mixed Reviews

LOS ANGELES ( — The Federal Aviation Administration's proposed rules for commercial use of small drones is drawing mixed reviews from drone enthusiasts.

The FAA proposal says operators can only fly during daylight and they must have a direct line of sight with their aircraft.

It also sets a maximum limit to drone weight at 55 pounds. Additionally, the drones would be required to fly no higher than 500 feet and at no more than 100 mph.

Potential operators of commercial drones will have to be at least 17 years old and must pass a federal exam.

The proposal arrives as companies such as Amazon continue to develop a drone delivery system and smaller businesses, in industries like filmmaking and real estate, hope to give their projects an aerial view.

Jared Hoffen, owner of Drones Plus in Studio City, says the store had its soft opening last week.

And the merchandise is already flying off the shelves: "In the first three days, we did almost $20,000 in sales."

With more people manning drones, some experienced operators are worried they lack proper training.

Retired police officer and drone enthusiast Lou Castle says he believes that's what led to a near-collision at Los Angeles International Airport between a drone and a Southwest Airlines plane more than a week ago.

"The incident at LAX where the fella was flying at 4,000 feet - there's no business being at that altitude," Castle said.

Experienced drone users say these unmanned aircraft are equipped with GPS so when they're out of sight or get low on battery power they can return home with ease.

Hoffen said, "This will come back to you before the battery runs out. They don't just fall out of the air."

Drone enthusiast Eric Walden says he supports the FAA's plan. He wants to eventually shoot commercial videos using drones: "I was very excited because it seems like they were headed in the right direction."

Walden also supports the FAA's proposal, which includes a certification process that would need to be renewed every two years: "It limits the amount of people that are going to be flying in the air without any knowledge at all."

Keith Kaplan, who runs the nation's largest commercial drone association, also agrees wholeheartedly with the plan. He took part in drone regulation discussions with administration officials at the White House last year.

"These types of systems are vital for us to have, that there are safe operations of aircraft," Kaplan said. "This rule-making is very important because it sets standards, just like with a manned aircraft, where you follow certain procedures to that you eliminate human error."

The proposed rules must go through a period of public and federal review. The earliest they'd go into effect would be in 2017.

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