National Science Foundation Funds Development of Emissions-Detecting Drone

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi says its latest grant from the highly competitive National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Program will support the development of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that can detect emissions from oil and gas pipelines and plants.

The three-year grant, totaling $539,998, is the first UAS-focused funding from the National Science Foundation awarded to the university.

Dr. Ahmed Mahdy, associate vice president for research, commercialization and outreach, and several other researchers, including undergraduate and graduate students, will build and program a drone able to fly over areas such as oil wells to measure, using precise sensors, the atmosphere’s chemical components and optical and infrared imagery.

The measurements can help identify the source of any excessive emissions and may also be used to monitor and ensure air quality meets environmental standards, says Texas A&M.

According to the university, a UAS with these capabilities would be in demand in the oil and gas industry, particularly in areas such as South Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale, where locations can be remote and such testing by standard means is costly, difficult to deploy and sometimes less effective than desired.

The technology developed in association with this project can be expanded for further research in the environmental arena, Mahdy explains. The technology will also be integrated into computer science, engineering, and physical and environmental sciences courses.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is home to the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation, one of the six UAS test sites selected by the FAA to guide research programs that will help the agency safely integrate drones into national airspace.

Photo: Dr. Mahdy and the university’s RS-16 UAS



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