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6 ways drones will transform business

There's a good news-bad news situation on the horizon for drone enthusiasts.

Although Federal Aviation Administration is proposing to ease the current near-ban on unmanned flying drones, the agency isn't going as far as some businesses would like. For instance, the rules require that drones always be in sight of their operators, which would appear to rule out delivery services from Amazon (AMZN) and other companies that envision using vehicles for a range of uses.

But the proposed rules would allow for wider usage of the unmanned aircraft, allowing businesses to operate drones of less than 55 pounds as long as they were flown during daylight and the operators maintained visual sight of the devices. Operators also would have to pass an aeronautical knowledge test, among other requirements.

While Amazon said in a statement that the proposed rules wouldn't allow Prime Air, its drone-delivery service, to operate in the U.S., plenty of other businesses and organizations would be able to send unmanned aircraft aloft in the name of furthering their research or operations. In its rule document, the FAA notes that the applications range from bridge inspections to aerial photography.

The future of drones over the U.S. 03:22

"This proposed rule is a critical milestone," said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. Drone technology "has largely remained grounded while many prospective users wait for the regulatory framework to catch up. This is a good first step in an evolutionary process that brings us closer to realizing the many societal and economic benefits of UAS technology."

Indeed, the market for commercial uses of drones could reach $1.7 billion by 2025, with several fields leading the way, according to an October report from Lux Research. Among the industries exploring the use of drones:

Agriculture. Farmers could be one of the prime beneficiaries of commercial drones, with Lux estimating that agricultural drones will generate $350 million in revenue within 10 years. One startup, Agribotix, called the FAA's proposed rules a "relief." Its business promotes using drones to help make better decisions, such as monitoring heat within a field to decide on the right fertilizer applications. The company makes money by selling data processing and the drones themselves, which cost about $6,000 each.

Drones pose security, privacy challenges 03:08

Energy. Drones could help the oil and gas industry by helping to search for and detect hazards at a lower cost than before. For instance, a drone could transmit images and data to check for leaks in pipelines or wells, which would be cheaper than hiring a helicopter and pilot. The oil and gas industry will be the second biggest segment following agriculture, with $269 million in revenue from drones in 2025.

Entertainment. The regulations would provide for wider use of drones in filmmaking. While the FAA has given exemptions for commercial drone usage to some aerial production companies, the proposed rules would make it easier for more film and television studios to get their own drones up in the air.

Civil engineering. Engineering firms that operate in a wide range of fields could use drones for everything from inspecting bridges and other structures to surveying and mapping.

Journalism. A host of major media companies are exploring the use of drones to gather news. In January, for example, The New York Times, The Washington Post and eight other media organizations said they were teaming with Virginia Tech to test news drones.

Drones. Expect sales of drones and related products, such as software to control the vehicles, to explode if the new FAA rules progress. While the market for commercial drones is still a niche one, the global market for drones could jump to $98 billion over the next 10 years, according to BI Intelligence.

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