Local News

Jun 6, 2014 2:12 PM by Janine Reyes

FAA Gives A&M Corpus Christi Green Light for Unmanned Aircraft Flights

CORPUS CHRISTI -- The Federal Aviation Administration has given A&M Corpus Christi the green light to fly unmanned aircraft above the university.

The unprecedented approval will save the university hundreds of thousands of dollars and give students hands-on training.

The program it works with sounds just like the inside of a commercial aircraft - but this model is much smaller. It's only a pound and a half, but the aircraft can do big things now that the FAA approved it for flight in Corpus Christi.

"We're going to be monitoring all the construction happening around campus," recent graduate Thomas Davis explained.

There is lots of that planned. The students will use the aircraft and corresponding program to produce 3D maps of the campus.

"It goes through and takes high resolution photographs and we stitch those together a special software and we create what's called an ortho-mosaic, Davis said.

But, those flights will do even more than just give students hands on training, each flight is expected to save the university about $1,500.

"When you look at the surveying that needs to be done just on a campus this size, you're looking at $150-$200 thousand dollars that the university or any entity would have to spend on this type of work,"

There may be other uses for this aircraft to take flight soon, and the university says with approval from the FAA, the sky's the limit.

"We can also use this say if there's a pretty big natural disaster that occurs we can go out there and see all the damage that was happening," Davis explained.

Gallardo says this could be the beginning of big business in the Coastal Bend. "We're going to be telling the public about that to see what type of commercial entities could maybe pop up a business here in Corpus Christi having to do with that," she said.

The university recently learned it is designated as an FAA test site for unmanned aircraft, in fact, the Island University is the headquarters for research.

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