Local News

Nov 12, 2013 3:57 PM by Sara Donchey

A&M Researchers Challenge Negative Stereotypes About Drones

CORPUS CHRISTI - Researchers at Texas A&M Corpus Christi are trying to change public perception about unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones.

The state of Texas, and specifically Corpus Christi, is being considered as one of six drone testing sites for the FAA.

And the university is already using drones to do things like monitor sea life, map coastal areas, even detect oil spills.

"There are all sorts of peaceful uses," said David Bridges, the unmanned aerial vehicle program director at the University. "I mean we're talking things like herd cows, you know, flying over a ranch, counting the cows. Or if you've got a wild game preserve."

But stereotypes of drones as spying or military tools have made even the name you used to describe these flying object a touchy subject in the scientific community.

Some researchers say it can be a little frustrating to get people to think of drones as academic tools rather than killing machines.

"That's what people think, 'Oh my gosh, the police are going to have a drone, the FBI is going to have a drone, they're gonna be spying on me; at some point they're gonna start shooting people with drones,' and we're out there trying to do things like track forest fires (and) track oil spills."

Currently you need a permit to fly a drone and you're limited on where you can fly them.

Once test sites are selected, the FAA will look into ways for drones to go mainstream safely, without colliding into commercial aircraft.

The university says that could open the doors for all kinds of new research.

"Things like shore bird habitat in the Laguna Madre," Bridges said. "You know, where these birds live and can we find them with our imagery."

Some academics did recognize that privacy is a legitimate concern. But they also insist that these aircraft - when used properly - can also do a whole lot of good for the local community.

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