Discover Your Island

Dr. Luis Cifuentes Receives 2017 Horizon Award at Energy Drone Summit

June 22, 2017

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HOUSTON, Texas – Dr. Luis Cifuentes, Vice President for Research, Commercialization and Outreach at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, has received the 2017 Horizon Award presented by the Energy Drone Coalition (EDC). The award was announced June 21 in Houston by Brett Rinne, Project Supervisor with BP, at the Energy Drone Summit which was attended and sponsored by industry leaders.

The Horizon Award recognizes professionals for leadership in fostering advances in energy-development operations by Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), popularly known as “drones.”

Cifuentes, with strong support from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi President Emeritus Flavius Killebrew and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, created a team of University and private-sector professionals in 2012 that won a federal UAS test site for the state of Texas.

“The leadership and support of Chancellor Sharp and President Emeritus Killebrew set the stage for the continued success of UAS research at the Island University,” Cifuentes said.

The test-site designation led to the creation of the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation (LSUASC) at A&M-Corpus Christi. The test site is only one of six nationwide that were selected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“It is an honor for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to be recognized as the lead academic partner that brought the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation test site to Texas,” said Cifuentes. “It is also humbling to collaborate with prominent state institutions known for research in aviation as well as our numerous private-sector partners.” 

The LSUASC’s success would not have been possible without a monumental team effort, Cifuentes said. The test-site proposal to the FAA was guided by Jerry Hendrix, formerly with Camber, who is now Executive Director of the LSUASC. University Research Development Officer Ron George, now retired, oversaw the writing and editing of the proposal for submission to FAA. Camber Corporation, headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, played a key role in the statewide partnership that won the FAA test-site contract, Cifuentes said.

Cifuentes said the success of the students in the field of UAS is what keeps him motivated.

“Watching young engineers and computer scientists establish careers and become leaders in UAS integration into civil aviation is inspiring,” he said.

EDC honored Cifuentes for his commitment to increasing the use of drones in the energy industry, providing guidance to students who are focusing on drones as their career path, supporting the research necessary to improve the use of drones in energy operations and his promotion of LSUASC’s vital relationship with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station.

The EDC focuses on collaboration within the rapidly developing use of UAS technologies in the oil and gas, power, mining and chemical industries