VENTURA ( — County officials from Southern California voiced disappointment after the Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday the selection of nine states to host research sites for drone testing.

KNX 1070’s Charles Feldman reports the decision marks a critical step towards determining how unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) will navigate U.S. airspace.

Alaska, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, North Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Hawaii, and Oregon will host the research sites, providing diverse climates, geography and air traffic environments, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.

Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market. Many universities are starting or expanding drone programs.

The FAA does not currently allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015, although officials concede the project may take longer than expected.

The FAA projects some 7,500 commercial drones could be aloft within five years of getting widespread access to American airspace.

Officials told the Associated Press competition for landing one of the test sites was robust fater 25 entities in 24 states submitted proposals.

Some local officials believe the decision will cost the Southland some much-needed economic stimulus.

“I think what we miss out on by not being awarded one of the six test sites is the small, entrepreneurial start-up,” said Bill Buratto with the Ventura County Economic Development Association.

“To have it miss us is a very disappointing turn of events,” San Diego County supervisor Ron Roberts said.

In addition Ventura and San Diego counties, Kern County was also among those whose proposal was denied by FAA officials.

RELATED: The Age Of Drones: Military May Be Using Drones In US To Help Police

The growing drone industry has critics among conservatives and liberals, including those who fear the technology could be used for surveillance on U.S. citizens without their knowledge.

Giving drones greater access to U.S. skies moves the nation closer to “a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities,” the American Civil Liberties Union declared in a report last December.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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