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Drone operators seek permission to fly out of direct sight

FILE - This Aug. 29, 2016, file photo provided by Sharper Shape and SkySkopes shows a Sharper A6 drone before a test to fly over power lines in eastern North Dakota near Blanchard. The drone is specially designed for utility asset inspections. The drone is being tested as part of a project by Xcel Energy to see of unmanned aircraft can help crews restore power to areas hit by natural disasters. Officials with the company hope to be flying beyond visual line of sight by the end of the year. (/Sharper Shape and SkySkopes via AP, File)© The Associated Press FILE - This Aug. 29, 2016, file photo provided by Sharper Shape and SkySkopes shows a Sharper A6 drone before a test to fly over power lines in eastern North Dakota near Blanchard. The drone is specially designed for utility asset inspections. The drone is being tested as part…

FARGO, N.D. — 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.

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