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Communications Experts Say Sky Is The Limit For Drone Technology

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- They're some of the hardest workers in the surveillance industry, oil fields and video production. And they're equipped with the latest technology and unlimited potential.

They're not human, they're drones, and a few Pittsburgh companies say the sky is the limit for these high-tech flyers.

Combine robotics and aeronautics, throw in a camera and some entrepreneurial vision, and suddenly, there's a whole new industry taking flight worldwide.

But there's still a long way to go as the Federal Aviation Administration integrates drones into our nation's airspace.

"You have an iPad or an iPhone that you can view the drone on and it's kind of neat for a hobbyist, and you can just explore and it's just a real neat experience," says Don Martin of Martin Communications.

It's becoming so popular in Pittsburgh that Martin Communications is planning to offer training seminar.

But drones are also big business for Martin. He uses the unmanned aerial vehicles for corporate security jobs and emergency services. In some cases, replacing traditional mounted surveillance cameras.

"It's sophisticated and compact and it works really well," he says. "And you got high-quality, high-definition video. It's fantastic."

To fly commercially, you need what's called an exception from the FAA, which can be a long and arduous process. Then, you need a certificate of operation every single time you want to fly.

"So, most pros aren't in the air above your city, and they're definitely not in the streets on any given day; however, amateurs are," Micah Rosa, of Shoutside Media, says.

Shoutside Media, a local marketing agency, is on the forefront of drone technology. Rosa sees unlimited potential with an application called Lidar Mapping, creating 3D images from a 2D airborne camera.

"It's taking lots of pictures really fast," says Rosa.

It's a valuable resource in construction, mining, agriculture and wetland preservation.

Shoutside's work helped the Allegheny Land Trust develop an ecological filtration system to eliminate acid runoff. Then, they documented the results, also with a drone.

There's a lot of money to be made, but it's frustrating because law enforcement and government agencies aren't held to the same standards.

"So it's not only creating an us versus them, where the government gets to do it and we don't, but it also creates a pro versus amateur, where the only people making news stories are the people not doing what they're supposed to," says Rosa. "It's a billion dollar setback at least."

States can create their own legislation, but the feds still have final say. So, it may be a while before these flying machines are a common sight in our skies.

KDKA's Kym Gable: "Are we going to come to that point in our lifetimes? "

Martin: "Well, the sky's the limit. And when you have drone technology, like it or not, it's here to stay."

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