A drone flies through the air with the greatest of ease.
A drone flies through the air with the greatest of ease. - 
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You've heard how drones are being used in all kinds of industries, from real estate to agriculture to the movies. It turns out that in the U.S., most of those drones have been flying illegally. With a few exceptions, the Federal Aviation Administration has long banned the use of drones for commercial purposes, but it loosened those restrictions on Thursday.

Phil Finnegan, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group, said while the U.S. has led the world in developing the technology behind drones, it’s fallen far behind when it comes to letting them fly legally.

“Countries like Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom — a lot of European countries — are going after this market,” he says.

It’ll take the FAA several years to finalize regulations for all drones, Finnegan says, but he believes this initial move will make the American motion picture industry more competitive on the world stage.

The FAA announced six filming permits today. Ziv Marom is with ZM Interactive, which used drones to provide aerial shots in this summer's "The Expendables 3," and he applauded the FAA’s decision. But the process is moving slowly, he says, and we shouldn't expect a critical mass of movie drones anytime soon.

“It will take some time before people will actually get the permits,” Marom says.

Drone pilots will also have to follow strict regulations, Marom says, including rules for training and equipment.

But how will this affect the helicopter and airplane industry that has effectively cornered this market so far? Star Helicopters owner Keith Harter says he isn’t too worried that drones will cut into his business.

“There’s room for both types,” he says. And if that's not the case, Harter says most helicopter companies have diversified their business enough so that they don’t rely on the film industry as a sole source of revenue.