FAA makes big step for drones

PrecisionHawk partners with FAA
PrecisionHawk partners with FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration's decision to allow test-piloting of drones that are flown beyond the eyesight of the operator is a big step, but the industry has a long way to go before pilotless planes start filling the air, a manufacturer said Thursday.

"The way we interpret it is this is the FAA saying 'We've heard you. We know that this is important. Now show us … the safety case. Show us that there is a business model to do this … and, more importantly, show us this is good for the United States," PrecisionHawk President Ernest Earon told CNBC's "Squawk Alley."

To achieve these goals, Earon said, the company would need to increase the number of its drone pilots, be in constant communication with the FAA, and expand its client base.

"We have to do this within the context of an actual market," he said. "This has to be done within the context of something that adds value to the United States."

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Earon made his remarks a day after the FAA said it would work with PrecisionHawk and BNSF Railway to test commercial drones that can fly beyond an operator's line of sight, a precursor to sophisticated drone operations such as package delivery.

The U.S. aviation regulator also announced on Wednesday a partnership with CNN to test news gathering in urban areas that have been largely off limits for commercial drones.

—Reuters contributed to this report