Universities in Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey have been selected to work collaboratively on the development of test sites for drones.

Rutgers University (Flickr User slgckgc)

The states were among five others named Monday by federal officials as research sites offering diverse climates, geographic features and air traffic environments. The research will help guide the Federal Aviation Administration as it works to introduce commercial drones into busy U.S. airspace.

Led by Virginia Tech, the research will also involve the University of Maryland and Rutgers University in New Jersey.

The news was welcomed in all three Mid-Atlantic states.

A key proponent has been Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who was an early investor in cellphones. He called the development of an unmanned vehicles "the beginning of something huge."

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)