The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that the Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site is ready to conduct research vital to integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. The site is the fourth of six to become operational.
The FAA granted the Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi team a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to use an AAAI RS-16 UAS. The RS-16 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,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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; support to law enforcement in the Padre Island National Seashore; and providing 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,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “This industry is growing exponentially, and we are working hard to make sure it does so safely.”
The FAA selected six congressionally-mandated test sites on December 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.