Virginia Tech drones used in search for missing Blacksburg teen

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BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10) -- The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership of Virginia Tech is aiding in the search for missing 13-year-old Nicole Lovell.

MAAP received an emergency Certificate of Authorization, or waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration Thursday to help the Blacksburg Police Department in its search. Trained pilots and safety observers were sent to a search site in Blacksburg where they operated a drone called a Skyranger. The quadcopter allows operators to continuously view the search area. It also has infrared search capability to detect heat, explained Mark Blanks, associate director of Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.




Thursdays search marked only the second time drones have officially been used for search and rescue in Virginia. Previously, MAAP worked with Albemarle County Police to use unmanned aerial vehicles in search of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. That search on, September 30, 2014, marked the first use of unmanned aircraft technology for search and rescue in Virginia’s history.

MAAP is headquartered at the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech . It is one of only six FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Sites in the nation.