The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday that Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia have been selected to host sites for testing the commercial use of drones.

The expressed purpose of the program is to “develop safety and operational rules for drones by the end of 2015,” the BBC reports.

The FAA said in a statement that its decision concludes a 10-month process involving proposals from 24 states. Geography, climate, placement of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, aviation experience and risk were considered for the project.

As the BBC reports, the chosen sites are:

A set of locations proposed by the University of Alaska in seven zones with varying climates, from Hawaii to Oregon

Griffiss International Airport in central New York state will test how to integrate drones into the congested north-east airspace

North Dakota Department of Commerce will test the human impact of drones and also how the aircraft cope in temperate climates

The state of Nevada will concentrate on standards for air traffic and drone operators

Texas A&M University plans to develop safety requirements for drones and testing for airworthiness

Virginia Tech university will research operational and technical areas of risk for drones

Agriculture and law enforcement are expected to make up a majority of the growth in the commercial drone industry. Drones are much cheaper to deploy than helicopters, the BBC said, and can be flown for as little as $25 an hour. The FAA estimates as many as 7,500 drone aircraft could fill the skies in the five years after general airspace access is made legal.

Lawmakers in the selected states were thrilled to be chosen, the BBC reports:

“This is wonderful news for Nevada that creates a huge opportunity for our economy,” said Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada.

An industry-commissioned study predicted more than 70,000 jobs – including drone operators – would develop in the first three years after Congress loosens drone restrictions on US skies.

The same study, conducted by the Teal Group research firm, found that the worldwide commercial drone market could top $89bn in the next decade.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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