The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test site has officially become the fourth of six test sites to become operational in the U.S.
The FAA granted the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi team a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization to use an AAAI RS-16 UAS, which weighs approximately 85 pounds and has a wingspan of almost 13 feet.
“The Texas aerospace industry contributes substantially to the state’s total economic output,” says Anthony Foxx, transportation secretary. “It is appropriate that Texas is becoming a pioneer in the emerging unmanned aircraft industry.”
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s research will concentrate on multiple areas, including safety of operations and data gathering in authorized airspace, UAS airworthiness standards, command and control link technologies, human-factors issue for UAS control-station layout, and detect-and-avoid technologies.
The site’s specific UAS projects include preservation and restoration of the ocean and ocean wetlands along the Padre Island National Seashore, research in advance of approaching tropical depressions, and support to law enforcement in the Padre Island National Seashore. The projects will provide metrics and lessons learned from these flights to the FAA.
“The UAS test sites will help us identify operational goals, as well as safety issues we must consider when expanding the use of unmanned aircraft into our airspace,” says FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
The FAA selected six congressionally mandated test sites on Dec. 30, 2013. The agency is working with the test sites to guide their research programs to help the FAA safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years.