That is scheduled to begin in late 2015, when the U.S. government starts issuing commercial drone permits.

Veteran aerial photographer Mark Bateson, a consultant to the film and television industry and some police departments, said one reality show producer asked him last year whether his custom-made drone could hover over a desert and use its thermal imaging sensors to spot ghosts for a ghost-hunter reality series.

Bateson rejected that request. “But I heard they eventually found someone to do it,” he said.

“Commercially, the culture already exists,” said Ben Miller, a Mesa County, Colorado, sheriff’s deputy who has been flying drones with special authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration since 2009.

“Turn on your TV and pay close attention to major sports events. You’ll see that in many cases they are getting aerial shots using a UAS (unmanned aerial system). I would venture to say that if you’ve seen an action movie in the last five years, chances are that a UAS was used.”