U.S. approves more commercial drone use as Congress probes risks


(REUTERS) – The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday granted four more companies exemptions to use drones commercially, further opening the airspace to unmanned aircraft even as lawmakers raised questions about the risks.

Trimble Navigation Ltd, VDOS Global LLC, Clayco Inc and Woolpert Inc said in their petitions to the FAA that they would operate drones weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kg) and keep them within view at all times.

The approvals broaden the uses of commercial drones to include aerial surveying, construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections. Previous FAA exemptions were for aerial photography by seven television and film companies.

The FAA is expected to release a draft rule on drones by the end of December. The latest approvals came as the FAA and other industry officials were questioned by Congress on Wednesday about the safety and benefits of drone use.

The FAA has been…

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