NASA, University of Dayton uses drone to test air quality at Radford Arsenal

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PULASKI CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Clouds looming over open burn sites on the Radford Army Ammunition Plant's property worry some people who live nearby and community activists.

Monday NASA and the University of Dayton sent a drone directly into the orange and yellow clouds to take a closer look at what's going up in smoke.

Lt. Col. Alicia Masson says the research will hopefully put some concerns to rest.

"I think that will fill that gap in the story. There is a gap of information right now and people fill it with fear and we want to fill it with science and facts. And I think it just backs us up," Masson said.

The Army is paying for the 300 thousand dollar research project.

Scientists are spending 10 days on-site collecting samples in the air after several different types of remnant materials are burned.

"We don't produce the same waste all the time, but in order to get a really accurate report some of the waste from before was saved so that we could put together every single type of burn," Masson said.

The smoke is coming from burned waste, that can't be destroyed in a grinder safely. It's burned for less than a minute.

Until now there has been a lack of air quality testing and science to back up what the plant has reported as safe open burns.

"In this case the question that kept coming up is, 'how do you know? How do you know what's in the burn?' Well now we're going to know. We know we engineer the process before the burn even happens," Masson said.

Masson says that information and data collected this week will be made available to the public, but not until it's released in December.