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NASA using drones from Wallops Island to study hurricanes

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Posted at 11:31 PM, Sep 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-11 06:41:53-04

The pinpoint of white light scooting in just ahead of sunrise was designed to ferret out terrorists hiding in rocky terrain. But now a former Military drone has a new life, in Wallops Island, searching for something that can be just as dangerous and just as deadly.

For the first time ever, NASA is sending two remote-controlled robot planes -- high flying drones -- to hunt hurricanes. It's part of the space agency's new mission, a mission to unravel some of weather's deepest mysteries.

Humberto becomes first hurricane of the season; Gabrielle continues to impact Bermuda

This particular aircraft was the first one of its kind ever built for the Military. That also means it`s the oldest, and one day it might have been destined for the scrapyard. But NASA saw an opportunity to use an aircraft like this to do something they`ve never been able to do with a traditional aircraft and a traditional air crew.

So with the help of Northrop Grumman, NASA essentially recycled these wartime drones, using them to spy on hurricanes in a way no human pilots or manned airplanes ever could.

The research these scientists are doing, and the data these planes are recording, has one goal: To save lives.

Tonight at 6, we'll show you how controversial drone technology is being used right here in Hampton Roads.