While the designation comes with no money, some 50 groups in the competition say they believe winning will draw the companies that make the drones, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
Groups from California to Florida and North Dakota to North Carolina have offered sites to test to the unmanned aircraft, what California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, chairman of the state's Select Committee on Aerospace, recently called "the next big thing in the aerospace industry."
Thousands of the remotely controlled planes are expected to deploy through the United States within the next five years, carrying out non-military tasks such as inspecting pipelines and searching for lost hikers.
Over the next decade, worldwide spending on drones is estimated to almost double to $11.4 billion, said aerospace research firm Teal Group Corp.
Congress has directed the Federal Aviation Administration, which is conducting the competition, to draft rules for drone flights over U.S. airspace by 2015.
The agency will select the six test sites by the end of the year.