Thanks to new rules from the Federal Aviation Administration, the world of commercial drone flight is no longer the wild west.

Thanks to new rules from the Federal Aviation Administration, the world of commercial drone flight is no longer the wild west.

New FAA regulations took effect Aug. 29 that allow for drone pilots with commercial missions -- including photography, video and other services -- to legally fly in airspace that was previously forbidden to them.

After taking an "aeronautical knowledge test," operators can be certified to fly in certain areas, with others -- airspace near airports and some helipads -- still off-limits until they receive explicit authorization for a specific time and purpose.

Westerville's Dave Agler operates Double I Media, a drone photo and video business, and took his test immediately to take advantage of the new regulations. While he and others said the process can be complicated at times, Agler said those who know anything about aviation realize it's important.

"Once you comprehend what's going on in the air around you, you realize the process is necessary and good," he said. "It makes you feel comfortable something bad isn't going to happen."

The FAA's struggle has been to facilitate unmanned drones working in the same airspace as airplanes or helicopters that have someone physically operating them. Air-traffic controllers can communicate with pilots, but don't yet have a way to talk to drone operators to ensure their devices won't be in the way.

That's why Agler and others interested in flying near large portions of central Ohio -- each of the area's airports has a wide no-fly radius for drones -- will need to get specific permission that can take up to 90 days to clear.

But at least the option to apply for permission is possible, and in a news release, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the new setup creates a better environment for operators and traditional pilots alike.

"The FAA's role is to set a flexible framework of safety without impeding innovation," Huerta said. "With these rules, we have created an environment in which emerging technology can be rapidly introduced while protecting the safety of the world's busiest, most complex airspace."

Many drone pilots say they're aware of the balance between manned aircraft and drones that needs to be reached.

Steve Hane is an aerial photographer and owner of MetroAir Photo, and is a pilot himself. He spent much of his career shooting photos from inside planes and helicopters before taking up drone photography.

He said he understands the tension between traditional pilots and drone operators.

"They need to exist in the same world, so that's the challenge," he said. "Your butt's not in the seat, so that's the problem most pilots would have (with the presence of drones). You don't have any skin in the game."

But Hane and Agler said the newer, clearer regulations have made the air safer for everyone. Rules once were difficult to comply with and enforce, but the new FAA guidelines mean less confusion and more reason to comply.

"When compliance isn't possible, the guy not in compliance looks like a hero and a rebel," Agler said. "When it is possible, that guy is an idiot and a danger to the rest of us."

While restrictions and safety are the headline for drone operators who were itching for a legal way to run their operations, increased opportunities for drones on commercial missions could give the industry a massive boost in money and innovation.

Loren Stone is one of the technology experts who sees that potential.

Among many other titles he holds, Stone is the Midwest director for the national science and technology nonprofit Tesla Foundation and CEO of Columbus' Murphy Co., a technology and services business that recently expanded into drone products.

With his connections in the field, Stone has established Autonomy Hub, which offers a collaborative environment where leaders from a variety of private companies and higher education can work together to help spread information and push the industry.

"As an entrepreneur, you can build things on your own, and sometimes I do," Stone said. "But there's no greater strength than collaboration."

Stone is operating the hub out of the Murphy headquarters in Franklinton. He said central Ohio is the perfect location for drone innovation, given the business climate and Columbus' $40 million Smart City Grant.

"(Central Ohio) has a lot going on," he said. "We're the birthplace of aviation, we sent the first astronaut into orbit and now we're on the forefront of autonomy."

From a business perspective, Agler said prospective clients sometimes were scared off by the lack of cohesive rules. Now, he said, they have no reason not to commission work -- and when more money is involved, good things happen.

"Now, they'll say, 'OK, we can do this. Let's start something,' " he said. "That's where innovation comes in."

Stone's various projects, Agler's business connections and Hane's Buckeye Aerial Drone User Group -- which has more than 200 members -- have combined for the hub's central Ohio presence, and the men said they have a more collaborative environment for drone enthusiasts or businesses than ever.

While casual observers may see drones simply as a way to get an interesting photo or video, the group sees much larger accomplishments on the horizon for autonomous technology.

"It's an exciting time," Hane said. "I really think this is the next industrial revolution."

@ThisWeekAndrew