Virginia Tech students test drone technology

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WJLA) - On a large Blacksburg, Virginia farm turned into a small experimental station - a group of Virginia Tech students has been working all night to make history.

The drone technology begins with a 200 pound mini helicopter. It's equipped with a radiation detector and cameras that will take pictures of the terrain. It will show where radiation has spread.

The research will help in post catastrophic accidents like the one Japan where after a massive earthquake, radiation started leaking out of a power plant.

"We can take the aircraft that aren't going to put people in harm's way to do dull, dirty and dangerous jobs that nobody wants to really get involved with in the first place," said Kevin Kochersberger, Virginia Tech Associate Professor.

This is just one small project piling on to the research that will help the Federal Aviation Administration come up with regulations for drones. Virginia Tech has been flying unmanned aircrafts for some time.

Jon Greene, the interim director of the Mid Atlantic Aviation Partnerhip says the goal is to integrate drones into the national airspace.

"Figuring out the technology that allow us to sense the environment and to avoid risk is number one," explained Greene.

With possibly thousands of vehicles in the air, they'll have to figure out how to share spectrum and make sure aircrafts can be controlled at all times. Greene thinks it can be done in maybe three years in small, controlled areas. It's a clear reminder of the automobile revolution at the turn of the last century.