Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is conducting a surveillance research mission with an RS-16 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) over the Gulf of Mexico this week, as part of the university’s search for new applications of unmanned aircraft technology.
The week-long research project will use the multi-spectral camera onboard the aircraft to acquire images over the Gulf to be used in a study of algae distribution along the Texas coast by the university’s Center for Coastal Studies.
“There is not much research in the UAS field including a maritime environment,” said Dr. David Bridges, Director of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Initiative in the College of Science & Engineering. “The high-definition images can help track algal blooms, hurricanes, harmful pollutants, and serve a variety of other purposes over land and water.”
American Aerospace Advisors Inc. (AAAI), manufacturer of the RS-16, is providing assistance with ground-crew activities and the role of mission commander. The project will also feature the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft; during the missions over the Gulf, a manned aircraft will monitor the UAS as it flies between two designated command posts.
The project, dubbed the “Lone Star UAS Initiative,” is part of the statewide effort to designate Texas as one of the six FAA-proposed unmanned aircraft testing sites across the U.S.
FAA has certified the airspace where the project will be conducted for unmanned aircraft operations, which includes significant portions of the Padre Island National Seashore and Gulf of Mexico coastal waters.
“UAS research and development promises to be what some are calling the next ‘Kitty Hawk moment’ in aviation history. For the sake of our economic growth, Texas must be a player,” said Flavius Killebrew, university president.
Related: Unmanned Aircraft News