NASA, A&M-CC drone project nears its end in Corpus Christi

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Posted at 7:00 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 20:06:12-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There's been a lot of buzz over the Downtown area the past several weeks.

That's where drones have been flying as part of a research project.

NASA and Texas A&M Corpus Christi have teamed up for this project that's now in its final stages, and there's a lot of complicated science behind this high-flying project. But the goal is simple: How to safely integrate drone technology into an urban environment.

"Basically, anything that we currently are using human beings to do, these aircraft can do for us,” said Acting Executive Director at the Lone Star Center of Excellence at TAMUCC Michael Sanders.

One hurdle for Texas A&M University's Lone Star UAS Center and NASA is to figure out how to safely integrate drone technology into our airspace.

For that, they have to create an unmanned traffic control system for these unmanned drones.

That means teaching the drones to identify each other so there are no collisions.

The testing of these unmanned aircraft happening right here in Corpus Christi will impact industry standards, and the future use of drones.

"What we're learning, we transfer to the FAA and the industry, so the FAA ultimately is gonna be rolling out a traffic management system for drones called UTM,” said Ron Johnson, project manager for the UTM project. “And what we're doing now is really laying the ground, the foundation for that work."

The early stages of the project involved test flights in rural areas. Corpus Christi is now a lab setting to see if drone technology is compatible with tall buildings, changing weather patterns, and high-population areas.

"So really trying to test the drones in this type of environment really exercises them to the fullest extent," Johnson said.

Corpus Christi is one of two cities involved in this phase of the project. Local drone testing will end Aug. 23.