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Maryland may share in the work expected to come to six sites in the country selected by the Federal Aviation Administration as drone test sites, public officials said Monday morning.

Virginia Tech’s proposal, which included test sites in Virginia and New Jersey, was one of the six sites selected. The University of Maryland will provide research assistance as needed, Matt Scassero, director of the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, said.

“For us, I would say it’s a partial win,” Scassero said, adding that Maryland had applied on its own but was not selected by the FAA. Still, he said, Maryland will benefit from work that will be based at Virginia Tech.

“We are successful,” Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s) said in an interview minutes after hearing from Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md., 5th) about the designation.

Work on unmanned aerial vehicles at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and the Webster Field Annex in St. Mary’s County helped position Maryland and its partners ahead of the game, Bohanan said.

The six test sites will focus on integrating drones, and all the technology needed to fly them, into civilian air space. Virginia Tech plans to conduct unmanned aerial system failure mode testing and identify and evaluate operational and technical risks areas, according to the FAA announcement Monday.

The designation is expected to open economic opportunities for the regions chosen by the FAA.

Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland, and Rutgers University will be partnering to carry out that work. The cooperation of that consortium likely helped win one of the designated sites, Bohanan said.

Virginia has NASA’s Wallops Island station and Langley Research Center, along with a naval presence in Dahlgren. And New Jersey has the Next Generation Aviation Research and Technology Park.

As the U.S. works to integrate drones into its own commercial air space, the economic potential is estimated to be $89 billion worldwide during the next decade, said Matt Scassero, director of the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site.

Drones have potential to be used in agriculture stateside, he said before Monday’s announcement, and more broadly in search and rescue missions, for cargo deliveries, and to measure the scope of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires.

The University System of Maryland is establishing a footprint locally through the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. The local campus may grow in the coming years to include a business incubator that could be tied to the FAA’s unmanned aircraft system test designation.

jyeatman@somdnews.com