In addition to Cape, companies involved in the program include Qualcomm, AT&T, Uber, Intel, GE, Matternet and AirMap.

The city's proposal, according to the FAA, focused on border protection and food delivery, as well as international commerce, "smart city"/autonomous vehicle interoperability and surveillance.

In addition to the city of San Diego, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; the Virginia Tech Center for Innovative Technology; the Kansas Department of Transportation; the Lee County Mosquito Control District in Ft. Myers, Florida; Tennessee's Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority; the North Carolina Department of Transportation; the North Dakota Department of Transportation; the city of Reno; and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks were also selected.

“The enthusiastic response to our request for applications demonstrated the many innovative technological and operational solutions already on the horizon,” Chao said.

Now the selected agencies and their partners will work with the FAA to define their responsibilities, operations and data-sharing requirements under the pilot program, which is slated to take place over the next two and a half years.

The DOT and FAA say data gathered through the program will play a role in the crafting of new, more sophisticated regulations related to unmanned flights.

Reach reporter Sarah de Crescenzo at