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— The government granted six movie and television production companies permission to use drones for filming, an important step toward greater use of the technology by commercial operators, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday.

Dozens of other industries are lined up to follow Hollywood’s lead. Until now, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, had banned commercial drone operations with the exception of a lone oil company in Alaska.

The FAA permits come with limitations, including that the unmanned aircraft be used only in a restricted area, that they be flown under 400 feet in altitude and that flights last no more than 30 minutes at a time. Nighttime flights are prohibited, and reality television shows or other unscripted events won’t qualify for the permits.

“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial (drone) use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight,” Foxx said.

Tony Carmean, a partner in Aerial MOB of San Diego, predicted drones will fundamentally change moviemaking, providing directors with the ability to get shots they could never get before and making films more dynamic.

Major movie studios “want their hands on this right away,” but have held off using the technology until the FAA gives the go-ahead, he said.

Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney who represents several drone operators and interest groups that have challenged the FAA’s drone restrictions, said he is concerned that limitations attached to the drone permits may be so onerous that their benefits will be outweighed by the cost and the headache of complying.

The only previous FAA permit for commercial drone operations was granted to the Conoco Phillips oil company, which has flown two kinds of unmanned aircraft in unpopulated areas of Alaska and over the Arctic Ocean.

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