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TAMU-CC officials speak on new partnership with NASA for drone research

Posted at 10:16 PM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 23:31:15-05

Texas A&C-Corpus Christi is no stranger to researching unmanned aircraft systems, better known as drones. Years ago, the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation at the university was selected by the FAA as a testing site. Now, NASA has followed suit.

“We’ve done a series of tests to see how do you integrate UASs or drones into the national airspace system safely, and so this is kind of a culminating event,” Michael Sanders, acting executive director of the Lone Star Center, explained.

The university is one of two test sites nationwide for this latest phase of research by NASA on how to safely integrate drones into urban environments. These testing efforts will focus on that integration.

Speaking on some of the goals of the research, Sanders said, “How do the aircraft detect themselves in the airspace? How can they avoid possible collisions, either with buildings or people or other aircraft?”

NASA officials say the results of the research will go to the FAA to craft regulations for drone usage.

“We’re really trying to create a method and the technologies that support safely doing that, to integrate all these drones into the national airspace system so that they can fly over people and in urban areas and that sort of thing without causing harm” said Michael Logan, who leads the Small Unmanned Air Vehicle Labaratory at NASA’s Langley Research Center. He’s currently on a one-year assignment at TAMU-CC for various drone research projects.

Amanda Niederriter is one of the Islander students who will work on this new research. She’s excited about this opportunity, especially after seeing the impact of drones in the military sector while serving in the Navy.

“In the next decade, I think they’re going to be huge in the civilian sector,” she told KRIS 6 News. “I think it’s important for women to embrace that and be a part of that because it’s a largely male dominant field.”

Logan said conducting this research at the university can help pave the way for a bright future for this fast-growing career field.

“There’s going to be a tremendous demand, if you will, for these students who already know how to do this kind of work and are already familiar with some of the technologies,” he said.

Sanders says the Lone Star Center will be increasing its drone activity over the next six months, culminating with a large testing event in August covering the downtown and bay areas.