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Update: University Leads Effort to Bring UAS Test Site to Coastal Bend

July 10, 2012

UPDATE:  Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has committed financial resources and personnel to coordinate a statewide proposal to bring a UAS test site to the Corpus Christi area. The University received a number of commitments today (Tuesday, July 10) from public agencies and private industries to assist in the preparation of the proposal. The University and its collaborators will have 90 days to submit the proposal after the call to submit a response comes from the Federal Aviation Administration later this month.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Stakeholders from around the state met today (Tuesday, July 10) to gather resources for the possibility of Corpus Christi becoming a hub for the burgeoning technology of commercial and public Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) use.

Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi is preparing to propose the creation of the “Texas Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Test Site.” Today’s exploratory meeting developed a plan for responding to a FAA call for proposals later this month. The test site would research and advise on issues concerning the use of UAS in the national airspace. These issues include security of GPS systems, laws and policies regulating the potential for high UAS traffic, and how the military and civilians will share airspace.

            “We think Corpus Christi and the Island University are uniquely qualified to bring life to this new field that could potentially change the way we live,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, president and CEO of Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi.

The Island University has been developing research on the UAS industry at the Conrad Blucher Institute; the country’s largest endowed geospatial information systems research institute, and using the University’s certificate of authorization (COA) which provides permission to use airspace.

            “Using this technology, we’ve come up with safer and cost-effective ways to survey land,” said Dr. Stacey Lyle, associate professor of Science and Engineering. “For example, we’re researching ways to control these aircrafts using a cell phone.”

Leaders from federal, state, and local agencies along with private business gathered to find out the potential for a UAS test site and the implications of the new industry. Participants included Mayor Joe Adame, Hughes Aerospace Corporation, Corpus Christi Army Depot, Navy, the Texas General Land Office, Southwest Research Institute, and several Texas universities.

According to Dr. Luis Cifuentes, vice president for Research, Commercialization and Outreach, the creation of the test site brings the potential for new businesses in this field to come to the Coastal Bend region.

“We envision that companies from around the world with interests in UAS will station themselves around the test site,” said Dr. Cifuentes. “These companies could change the atmosphere of the entire community.”

Dr. Gary Jeffress, director of the Conrad Blucher Institute, says he’s excited about the idea of keeping more of the Islanders’ highly-qualified GIS graduates in the Coastal Bend. 

“We’re graduating a large volume of experts in this field. Many graduates would like to make Corpus Christi home, if the opportunity were available,” said Jeffress.

The exploratory meeting, which included six sessions on the plans of action for this type of test site, is the first step in creating a proposal to the federal government. Government officials say as many as six test sites will be created across the country.


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