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A new interstate agreement could brighten the chances of Southern Maryland landing a deal that could provide the region with greater research, technological and economic opportunities.

Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey announced Friday that they will work together to earn a highly competitive Federal Aviation Administration designation, which would recognize the three states as a region focused on helping to integrate the use of unmanned aerial systems (or drones) for civilian purposes into civilian air space.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) office issued a statement Friday that said the agreement has the potential to create more than 2,500 jobs across the state during the next 12 years. If the FAA designation is granted, the University of Maryland and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division at Patuxent River Naval Air Station would work together to provide technical and research opportunities, which local leaders hope would draw new businesses to Southern Maryland.

Virginia Tech and Rutgers University also signed the agreement, which was sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA. The governor’s release said that the University of Maryland, College Park would take the lead on the effort, and the three states believe their partnership strengthens their chances of landing the designation.

Fifty applications across 37 states were submitted to the FAA and 25 applicants remain, according to the statement from the governor’s office. A decision by the FAA is due Dec. 31.