Washington - Hollywood hailed a major victory after being given the all-clear on Thursday to use drones for film and television production, paving the way for more unmanned aerial systems in American skies.
Six photo and video production companies will be exempt from the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) de facto ban on the commercial use of drones, as long as they go no higher than 400 feet (120m) and remain within the confines of a production set.
Operators must also hold a private pilot's certificate and keep their unmanned aerial systems (UAS) within sight at all times.
"This is a big deal for us today," said Chris Dodd of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Previously, Hollywood had to go abroad to use drones to capture scenes for blockbusters.
"Now we'll be able to do this at home in the United States," said Dodd.
"That will make a terrific difference," he said, adding that the move could create jobs and keep production spending on US soil.
Until now, US civil aviation authorities have all but banned the use of drones for commercial purposes.
But other countries have been quicker to embrace ways in which drones can be used.
"Today's announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial UAS use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight," said Anthony Foxx, US Transportation Secretary.
"These companies are blazing a trail that others are already following, offering the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance."
FAA chief Michael Huerta said the movie industry exemption created a roadmap for his agency to set up similar arrangements in other sectors.
"It's a major step forward," he said, adding that the FAA would be ruling on about 40 other drone use petitions from other industrial sectors in the coming weeks and months.
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