Virginia Tech is getting ready to take off on a long journey full of research and testing.
Virginia Tech is one of the six public entities named by the Federal Aviation Administration as a test site for drones.
Many experts say it's only a matter of time before drones become a part of everyday life and now Virginia Tech will be part of a team to make sure the unmanned aircraft can safely fly in the sky.
"We see this as a real economic engine for the Mid Atlantic region," said Jon Greene.
Greene is the interim executive director of the Mid Atlantic Aviation partnership and associate director for the Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech.
Word from the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday has Virginia Tech dreaming big.
"We really think that we can be the future of unmanned aircraft systems for the United States," said Greene.
Greene is just one of many people who will be leading the way on the research and testing of these unmanned aircraft.
"There's actually no money associated with this award at all but we do think it’s going to position us for an opportunity to do a number of things in the research field," he said.
Greene said the FAA's decision to designate the school as a certified drone test site speaks volumes to the kind of work that is already being done at Virginia Tech.
"Our intent is to make this a self sustaining operation within a couple of years so no further tax payer dollars will be required." Virginia Tech is scheduled to receive more than $2.5 million in state grants over the next three years to advance research and development in UAV's. That money, called a Federal Action Contingency Trust Fund grant, was announced by Governor Bob McDonnell earlier in December.
Virginia Tech is just one of six public entities designated by the FAA as a test site. The University of Alaska, State of Nevada, New York's Griffiss International Airport, North Dakota Department of Commerce and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi were also selected.
Greene said the research will help the drone industry take off in the United States.
"What they are able to do is the dull, the dirty and the dangerous work that's out there so there's a lot of things that can be done today with drones a lot more efficiently and risk to life," he said.
Many people are against the use of drones. They view it as an invasion of privacy and say it is like "big brother" in the sky.
The FAA has not released the exact coordinates of the test site yet. Greene expects his team to test up to 25 unmanned aircraft at a time.
New Jersey will also be teaming up with Tech for the research. They are hoping to get the University of Maryland on board as well if the FAA will allow it.