Virginia Tech to host FAA drone testing site

(AP/WJLA) - Virginia Tech has been selected as one of six national drone testing sites by the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency announced Monday.

FAA officials say that the Blacksburg, Va. university will be the site of failure mode testing, along with activity to identify and evaluate operational and technical risk areas.

The school is joins five other sites from across the country where the FAA will perform testing. Twenty-four states submitted proposals to host research and test sites.

In addition to Virginia Tech, Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota and Texas will all host drone testing sites as well.

"These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation's skies," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

The FAA does not 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.

An industry-commissioned study last spring predicted more than 70,000 jobs would develop in the first three years after Congress loosens restrictions on U.S. skies. The same study projects an average salary range for a drone pilot between $85,000 and $115,000.