The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has predicted that some 600,000 commercial drones will be plying the skies over the US within a year, according to reports on Monday (29 August).

The expected boost, from the 20,000 drones currently in operation, will be triggered by new rules that went into effect in August 2016 making it far easier to be a commercial drone operator.

We are in "one of the most dramatic periods of change in the history of transportation," US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said that drones are "helping to create a whole new means of realising the American dream."

Now instead of having to acquire a regular pilot's licence and get special case-by-case permission from regulators to operate the machines, drone operators — who must be over the age of 16— will only need pass a new certification test and abide by various flying restrictions.

More than 3,000 people are already preregistered to take the certification test, reports NPR.

Drone safety rules will continue to apply. Those include: no flights beyond an operator's line-of-sight, over people, at night, above 400 feet (122m) in the air or faster than 100 mph (161km/h). Drones are also prohibited to be heavier than 55 pounds (25kg), and all unmanned aircraft must be registered.

Some locations will also continue to prohibit drones. Businesses can apply for waivers if they can prove flights will remain safe, while most waiver applications already granted concern night-time operation.

Uses will include drones for aerial photography, filmmaking, inspections, and monitoring of real estate and agriculture, according to an analysis by industry trade group the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Huerta expects drones will also be used to aid firefighting, in search and rescue operations and for academic research. The industry association expects the drone industry will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82bn (£7.6bn) over the next 10 years.

The FAA is currently working on new rules that eventually will allow drone flights over people and beyond an operator's line of sight, but are also have to hammer out privacy safeguards.