Drone operators seek permission to fly out of direct sight

FILE - In this April 14, 2016 file photo, a drone captures videos and still images of an apartment building in Philadelphia. Federal aviation officials say so many people are registering drones and applying for drone pilot licenses, they wonder if there will eventually be millions of drones crowding the nation's skies.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - In this April 14, 2016 file photo, a drone captures videos and still images of an apartment building in Philadelphia. Federal aviation officials say so many people are registering drones and applying for drone pilot licenses, they wonder if there will eventually be millions of drones crowding the nation's skies. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — As thousands of commercial drone take to the skies under new Federal Aviation Administration rules, some small operators are pursuing a coveted exemption that would allow them to fly where they can’t be seen by the pilot.

The companies who want them say the so-called line-of-sight exemptions are essential for commercial uses. The FAA has been selective in handing out the exemptions, with only three so far.

Two North Dakota companies who are working on a project to use drones to help respond to natural disasters are seeking the exemption. Matt Dunlevy, head of Grand Forks-based SkySkopes, says the ability to fly long distances is the “silver bullet” that will spur the industry.

The FAA expects there will be 600,000 commercial drone aircraft operating in the U.S. within the year.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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