FAA grants permits for agriculture, real estate drones; Spokane company gets one

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is issuing the first permits to agriculture and real estate companies to use drones to monitor crops and photograph properties for sale.

The Federal Aviation Administration exemptions to the current ban on commercial drone flights were granted to Advanced Aviation Solutions in Spokane, Washington, for monitoring crops, and to Douglas Trudeau of Tierra Antigua Realty in Tucson, Arizona.

Previously, the FAA had granted 12 exemptions to 11 companies in the oil and gas, film-making and landfill industries.

The agency is under pressure from Congress, the drone industry and companies that want to use drones to provide broader access to U.S. skies.

FAA officials had said they hoped to propose regulations to permit general commercial use of small drones by the end of 2014, but that deadline has slipped.