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Drone research continues at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
CORPUS CHRISTI -- Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi continues its preparations to be fully operational as one of only six federal test sites for unmanned aircraft systems with another series of test flight missions planned in South Texas ranchland.
Researchers will run missions twice daily with two unmanned aerial vehicles.
This university was selected by the Federal Aviation Administration as a test site in December. That designation is expected to bring other researchers of unmanned aircraft systems to South Texas.
A&M-Corpus Christi has an established drone program, including extensive airspace authorized by the FAA for unmanned aircraft system operations. The university also has established a center for drone tests at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center.
While the test site designation does not come with federal funding, recent studies show an anticipated economic impact of $8 billion statewide, and $260 million in South Texas over the next 10 years, creating about 1,200 jobs.
During these missions, drones will launch from a mobile operations center, fly east out of sight of ground observers, and be monitored by a manned aircraft as it flies over Padre Island and the Gulf of Mexico. Regulations require that the drone remain under visual contact at all times.
Researchers will also continue training with the onboard multi-spectral camera that acquires video, ultraviolet and thermal images that can be used for mapping sea grass, monitoring pipeline routes, detecting wildfires hotspots or oil spills in the ocean, and counting livestock.
During the missions, the Mission Control Center back in Corpus Christi will continue development of the technology to track, monitor, and receive streaming video from the unmanned aircraft and the mobile operations center at the launch site.
The successful FAA test site bid was a team effort among A&M-Corpus Christi, A&M Engineering Experiment Station, Camber Corp., the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute, the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, and other research institutions and private-sector companies.
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