Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) recently conducted a number of test flights of its largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the RS-16.
Through the university's Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center (LSUASC), TAMU-CC – which has been conducting flights of the RS-16 since 2011 – flew the aircraft at altitudes up to 3,000 feet and over a distance of 18 miles.
The RS-16, with a wingspan of nearly 13 feet and a maximum weight of 85 pounds, launches with a pneumatic catapult and lands on its belly. The team conducted the flights from a Port Mansfield airport.
On the first day, the crew launched the UAV in the early-morning hours, says Dr. David Bridges, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the university’s UAS program. This flight used an infrared camera and tested how drones could be ideal for wildlife inventory, including monitoring populations that are more active at night – such as ocelots, an endangered species with fewer than 130 in Texas.
The next day, the RS-16 was in the air for 6 hours and 20 minutes, marking its longest flight yet.
On the following day, the drone flew over the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre while Dr. Paul Zimba, director of the Center for Coastal Studies at TAMU-CC, and his crew of student researchers were at the water’s edge to see how drone-collected imagery compares with shoreline surveys, which are traditionally used to determine property lines. The university says this research seeks to further define a hot topic in Texas: determining the exact line between private and state land in property disputes.
LSUASC will report the results of the latest tests to the FAA as part of its duties as a federal test site.