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LSUASC conducts robust test flights over South Texas and the Gulf of Mexico


The Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center of Excellence & Innovation (LSUASC), headquartered at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, conducted a series of robust test flights June 25-26.

The flights were the first completed by the Lone Star center after being given a green light by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate as one of six federal UAS test sites.

Researchers ran missions with the University’s RS-16 Arcturus unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The missions addressed FAA research goals focused on safely integrating remotely-piloted aircraft (RPAs) into the national airspace system (NAS), including:

  • System safety and data gathering as it relates to marine environments;
  • Best practices for use of a chase plane in monitoring UAS test flights;
  • Refining the process of air-traffic-control communications among the RS-16, a ground control station on the test range and the Mission Control Center 35 miles away at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center in Corpus Christi

The RS-16 was launched by catapult from a mobile-operations center into 450 square-miles of airspace near Sarita, Texas, authorized by FAA. It flew east and was monitored by a piloted aircraft as it flew over Padre Island and the Gulf of Mexico. FAA requires that the RS-16 remain visible to human observers on the ground or in the air at all times under rules known to aviators as VLOS (visual line of sight).

The mission gathered video, ultraviolet and thermal image data from the onboard multispectral camera for TAMU-CC researchers monitoring coastal habitats and shoreline changes. LSUASC is required to report test-flight data to the FAA within 45 days of operations.

The RS-16 is the TAMU-CC’s largest UAV, with a wingspan of nearly 13 feet and a maximum weight of 85 pounds. It lands on its belly in soft, dry mudflats common on the Texas Gulf Coast.

TAMU-CC has conducted regular flights of the RS-16 since 2011.

The center is a statewide consortium for research, development, testing and evaluation of UAS technologies led by TAMU-CC and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. It is composed of four research universities, two state agencies, two non-profit corporations, five private-sector service companies, two airports and the state governor’s office of Aerospace, Aviation and Defense. Camber Corporation is lead systems integrator for LSUASC.

Contact information for center team members may be found here.

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