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Texas A&M-Corpus Christi begins Gulf of Mexico 'drone' research flights.


Officials at US-based university Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi said that a team from the institution will conduct the first mission over the Gulf of Mexico with their unmanned aircraft from Monday, March 11, through Friday, March 15.

The unmanned aircraft, commonly called a "drone," will acquire data over the Gulf and South Texas ranchland as part of their search for new applications of unmanned aerial technology.

During the mission, the University's RS-16 unmanned aerial vehicle will carry onboard a multi-spectral camera which will acquire images in the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet frequency ranges.

Among other applications, this data will be used in a study of algae distribution along the Texas coast by the University's Center for Coastal Studies. This is one of the many coastal and marine science applications for unmanned aerial systems technology.

According to the university's David Bridges there is not much research in the UAS field including a maritime environment.

Bridges says that, in addition to the aforementioned goals, the missions will test one of the potential safety issues associated with the expansion of UAS technology to the public: the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft.

During the missions over the Gulf, the UAV will launch from one command post, fly out of sight of ground observers, and will be monitored by a manned aircraft until it reaches a second command post that will fly it over Gulf waters.

The operations will also include observations of water and land interface, wildlife and herd count, mapping of sea grass and salt marsh communities, and oil pipeline tracking.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi said that the missions come at a critical moment as the uni leads a statewide effort to persuade the Federal Aviation Administration to designate Texas as a test range for technologies that will allow large and small unmanned aircraft to operate safely in the national air space.

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Publication:Airline Industry Information
Geographic Code:0GULF
Date:Mar 12, 2013
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