Unmanned Aircraft Flies Over Island University to Map, Monitor Shoreline

Published: October 06, 2014

Unmanned Aircraft Flies Over Island University to Map, Monitor Shoreline

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi researchers continued flights with their small-scale Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) over the island campus on Sunday, Oct. 5, as part of the first series of federally approved missions to fly over the university campus.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved the over-campus flights in June.

Researchers are examining flight and survey capabilities. The UAS collected images as it flew that will then be used to derive geospatial information products for the University. Applications include campus planning and development, 3D building modeling, and monitoring shoreline change of the island campus.

The University is not aware of any other entity approved to fly a UAS, commonly referred to as a drone, over an entire university campus on a recurring basis. Flight crews must meet certain criteria stipulated by the FAA and operations must follow certain procedures such as notifying aviation officials of flights and limiting fly time to Sunday mornings.

The University is also home to the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center, which is one of six federally designated test sites designed to help the FAA determine best practices to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national air space.

University officials say that this hands-on research helps prepare students in Geographic Information Science and Geospatial Surveying Engineering for the cutting-edge field of UAS surveying, providing them unique opportunities rarely found elsewhere.

Students have already been assisting the University with numerous survey projects that include utility mapping, road construction and boundary delineations. Image data from the UAS is also being compared with traditional surveying from land and water of University Beach to help verify the over-flight surveying techniques.

University officials have said that each aerial flight provides a more efficient, safe, and cost effective method to collect geospatial data for campus planning and decision making. Experiences gained from these flights lead to better approaches for conducting UAS survey missions and provide students a dynamic learning environment.

Aircraft Specs

UAV: Sensefly Ebee

Type: Super lightweight fixed wing craft

Wingspan: 3 feet

Weight: 1.5 pounds

Fly time: 45 minutes per battery