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Drone test sites spell opportunity for companies outside of Calif.

Drone test sites spell opportunity for companies outside of Calif.
FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2013 file photo, NASA's Global Hawk pilotless aircraft sits in a hangar after arriving from a science mission monitoring tropical storm Gabrielle, during a survey of unmanned aircraft and related systems developed by the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, that six states will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies. Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia will host the research sites, the agency said. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Developers eager to make a business out of the unmanned aerial vehicles known as drones are a step closer to that goal.

Until now, it's been extremely difficult to test drones for business applications.

But on Monday, the federal government designated drone test sites in several states, including three test ranges in Oregon: in Pendleton, Tillamook and on the Warm Springs reservation.

California was not on the list, drawing criticism from Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, "I am disappointed by the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) decision to exclude California as one of the six unmanned aircraft system research and test sites," said Fuller, who represents California's 18th Senate District.

A written statement from Fuller continued, "Our state, in particular the High Desert community, has a long history of fostering and developing new technologies in aerospace.  As one of the fastest growing areas of the aerospace industry, unmanned aircraft manufacturing could bring thousands of new, high paying jobs to our area. I will continue to support ventures that ensure California remain a leader in aerospace research and development."

Ryan Jenson, who heads a Portland company that builds drones to help farmers manage water, fertilizers and pesticides, says the new ranges will be what he terms a "huge help." Close at hand and accessible to everyone, they will help accelerate development of new UAV's in the U.S.

Still, since drones' commercial use is still not legal, the real impact on the industry is hard to gauge.

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BakersfieldNow.com staff contributed to this report