When you hear the word "drones," what comes to mind?

For many, the answer is distant battlefields and controversial headlines. But if the news coming out of Alaska this week in any indication, drone technology might soon spell "profit" for forward-thinking investors.

In what many industry commentators are hailing as a landmark development, BP (NYSE:BP) recently announced that it had received government approval to use commercial drones to monitor its Alaskan oil operations over the course of the next five years. The project, which BP is carrying out through a contract with drone industry leader AeroVironment (NASDAQ:AVAV), represents the FAA's first-ever approval of a large-scale commercial drone initiative.

It also, perhaps more importantly, represents the first of what could be many milestones for a non-military drone market that some researchers believe could grow to upwards of $400 billion.

Watch below as Motley Fool technology analyst Lyons George discusses what's going on in the high-flying drone industry...and why growth investors might want to get in sooner than later.