CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - U.S. Senator Mark Warner visited engineering labs at the University of Virginia on Friday, September 9, to get a look at the research they're doing for the government. The Department of Defense funds research teams at UVA to invent new types of drones.

UVA’s Applied Research Institute works on solving real world problems through new inventions and discoveries. Engineers do some of that work directly for the Department of Defense.

Warner got a firsthand look at the technology invented using $6.5 million of research funding from the U.S. Navy.

“So the work that we'll be looking at is really the next generation, cutting edge technology,” said Joan Bienvenue of the Applied Research Institute.

In one lab, researchers used a 3-D printer to create a drone that could deliver supplies to troops deployed in war zones.

“One of the more interesting things I saw was the fact that using a 3-D printer we've created a drone that basically is basically about 1/10 of the cost what the Army currently pays for drones,” said Warner.

To invent these new machines engineers took lessons from the natural world, studying and then mimicking how animals move, but with research funding from the military and intelligence communities, they can't give too many specifics.

“So with those folks as our sponsors, we have to be careful what we say so that our adversaries don't know what we're up to,” Bienvenue said.

Whether they fly or swim, Warner believes unmanned systems may lead the next technological revolution.

“I think some of the technology being worked on right here at UVA will lead the forefront of that,” he said.

Warner said it was incredibly helpful to see how the research comes together himself so that when it comes time to vote on the use of these machines, he has a firsthand understanding.