Bringing UAS to America's Skies

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Click any of the questions below to view its corresponding answer.

  • What is the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence & Innovation?
  • What is an FAA-designated test site?
  • Where is the LSUASC test site?
  • How were the test sites selected?
  • What is the goal of these test sites?
  • How can companies use this site?
  • What is the difference between UAS, UAV? Is it a drone?
  • What are some uses for UAS?
  • What kind of UASs does Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi use?
  • Are there any regulations with the use of your aircraft and the research missions that occur?
  • What will Texas' responsibility be as an FAA test-site operator?
  • Are there currently any employment opportunities with LSUASC?
  • I have seen what appears to be Predator drones flying over TAMU-CC and the surrounding area. What is their purpose?
  • I am a researcher that is looking to collaborate with researchers at LSUASC. Is this possible?
  • I am a UAS industry vendor. Whom do I contact for inquiries?
  • How will the team (and companies who come to test) utilize the site?
  • How will ground movement be monitored?
  • What are the proposed hours of operation?
  • Will there be a chase plane to accompany the UAS during takeoff and landing?
  • How will the UAS be separated from other aircraft in the area?
  • What are the procedures in the event of loss of radio link with the UAS?
  • Will the operation of the UAS affect the ability of other aircraft in our area to operate safely?
  • Does the UAS have a tracking system?
  • Does the UAS have a collision avoidance system?
  • What types of restrictions will be imposed in the designated test site areas?
 

What is the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence & Innovation?

The Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation (LSUASC), founded at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 2013, was established in response to an FAA initiative to integrate UAS into the national airspace. LSUASC is composed of a team of highly engaged researchers, entrepreneurs and aviation industry professionals.


 

What is an FAA-designated test site?

UAS test sites are mandated by Congress to assist the Federal Aviation Administration in developing policies, procedures and technological solutions that will enable safe integration of remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA) into the national airspace system (NAS). The test sites are designed to collect operational data for the FAA and to assist UAS manufacturers and technology developers with research, development and commercialization of their products. Backed by Gov. Rick Perry, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi led Texas' successful proposal effort, one of 50 proposals among 37 states. The site encompasses more than 6,000 square miles of proposed airspace for RPA test-range operations.


 

Where is the LSUASC test site?

The test site includes 11 test ranges, covering more than 6,000 square miles of airspace from the Gulf of Mexico to the Big Bend region of Texas.


 

How were the test sites selected?

The test sites were selected by a rigorous, computer-assisted process adopted by FAA for the test-site program. Texas' proposal was competitive for a variety of reasons: wide-open airspace, advanced research capabilities, UAS operational experience, and an excellent aviation safety record.


 

What is the goal of these test sites?

The goal of the test sites is to provide an environment within which UAS technologies can be tested, evaluated, developed and validated, which will enable FAA to develop operational rules, regulations and policies for integrating UAS into the NAS for commercial use. LSUASC research aligns with FAA's six focal areas that will enable safe integration: system safety and data collection; airworthiness; command and control link; control station layout; ground and airborne sense-and-avoid; and environmental impacts of UAS operations.


 

How can companies use this site?

Once the test site has been certified by the FAA (as early as June 30), private and public entities will be able to launch and land UASs to test and develop various uses of the technology. The Mission Control Center will monitor these flights and collect data for the FAA. The test site will generate revenue by charging fees for services associated with test site operations.


 

What is the difference between UAS, UAV? Is it a drone?

UAS stands for unmanned aircraft systems and includes all the technology used to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Drones tend to refer to UAVs that are programmed remotely for completion of a task. Licensed pilots operate UAVs owned by the University. The aircraft can be programmed, but there is always a human element in the command and control link.


 

What are some uses for UAS?

Unmanned Aircraft Systems can provide many types of information more effectively and efficiently – and often more safely – than manned aircraft. Examples include:

  • detecting wildfire hotspots and ocean oil spills;
  • providing images to emergency management officials after disasters or extreme weather;
  • monitoring pipelines;
  • mapping coastlines and habitats;
  • conducting livestock inventory;
  • locating lost or stranded people; and
  • providing cell phone relay transmission services
  • surveying missions over large areas

 

What kind of UASs does Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi use?

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has a variety of UAS:

  • RS-16 is a fixed-wing aircraft with a wingspan of 13 feet. It weighs 85 pounds and carries a 25-pound payload. Its top speed is 65 knots (almost 75 mph). TAMU-CC is authorized by FAA to fly the RS-16 at altitudes up to 3,000 feet.
  • Rotorcraft hover more like a helicopter with four or six rotors, usually at altitudes of less than 400 feet, provided they do not interfere with air-traffic control near airports.

 

Are there any regulations with the use of your aircraft and the research missions that occur?

The LSUASC test site is bound by FAA regulations for operating a specific aircraft for research purposes within airspace authorized by FAA. For example: The RS-16 must be operated under visual line of sight (VLOS) rules, which means ground observers must be able to see the aircraft or a piloted chase plane must fly with the UAS to monitor is operations. The UAS must be controlled by a licensed pilot. FAA air-traffic control facilities must be kept abreast of operations and notices to airmen (NOTAMs) must be filed. Numerous ground-safety regulations must be observed.


 

What will Texas' responsibility be as an FAA test-site operator?

Texas has a contract with FAA to provide data and regular reports on its operations and to abide by FAA rules and regulations for operating UAS only in airspace authorized by the agency. As a test-site operator, Texas also will be able to offer services to the UAS industry and research institutions that will increase the state’s capacity in the UAS sector of the aviation industry and create educational opportunities for students in all colleges of TAMU-CC.


 

Are there currently any employment opportunities with LSUASC?

All job openings with LSUASC can be found through our jobs page. Links provided on that page will take you to public and private entities that have open positions in Texas.


 

I have seen what appears to be Predator drones flying over TAMU-CC and the surrounding area. What is their purpose?

LSUASC is not involved with any operations that use Predator aircraft or other similar aircraft. Military RPA flying over Corpus Christi operate from Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.


 

I am a researcher that is looking to collaborate with researchers at LSUASC. Is this possible?

Yes. We are currently developing a researcher interface. Until the research interface is available, you may inquire to Melanie Neely Willis at melanie.willis@tamucc.edu.


 

I am a UAS industry vendor. Whom do I contact for inquiries?

Please inquire to Joe Henry by e-mail: fhenry@camber.com.


 

How will the team (and companies who come to test) utilize the site?

The LSUASC business model is fee-for-service based on a range-loading plan developed by lead systems integrator Camber Corporation. A graduated fee structure encourages development of start-up companies but is also designed to offer a full range of services to well-established UAS original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). No exclusionary practices or procedures are allowed by the FAA.


 

How will ground movement be monitored?

UAS ground movement on taxiways and runways is always monitored by ground visual observers as directed by the FAA. Ground control stations (GCS) receive metadata or GPS data from the aircraft. These data provide current aircraft position and speed.


 

What are the proposed hours of operation?

The Lone Star UAS Team has identified ideal operating hours per day according to weather and aviation traffic data collected over a 10-year period. The team concluded that the preferred mission time is Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This schedule reflects the maximum operational hours. It does not reflect the number of actual operational days or hours needed to meet the research goals and objectives of the Lone Star UAS Test Site. This time period minimizes potential hazardous visibility and wind conditions. Weekend and nighttime (midnight to 4 a.m.) operations also are viable as permitted by the FAA.


 

Will there be a chase plane to accompany the UAS during takeoff and landing?

FAA requires visual observers during all UAS operations. The visual observer must be within one mile of the unmanned aircraft at all times. This visual observer is permitted to be on the ground at the launch and recovery site as well as in a chase plane. The Lone Star UAS Team has used chase planes in order to adhere to the FAA regulations for visual observers. Chase aircraft support of unmanned air vehicle flight has one objective: “the safety of non-participating aircraft flying to the rear and above, below or on both sides of the UAV.” Chase aircraft must be flown only by FAA certified/approved pilots.


 

How will the UAS be separated from other aircraft in the area?

Direct and continuous contact with the controlling FAA facility, adjacent facilities, DOD ATC and outreach is maintained through direct communications, according to FAA regulations.

General aviation, commercial aviation and range flights may be separated by several standard means. The primary means for separating range flight activity is procedural. Separation by a single parameter or combination of the parameters of time, space and altitude maintains safe separation.

  • Space separation refers to specific aircraft location within a range. This space is defined as the aircraft’s operational area or mission profile for that activity.
  • When aircraft are in transit, a range operations officer or ATC representative can separate the aircraft from others by time allocation. Time separation is defined by the distance gained through controlled arrival and departures or checkpoints.
  • Aircraft can operate in the same horizontal space but vertically separated through block altitude stratification.

 

What are the procedures in the event of loss of radio link with the UAS?

Lost-link incidents are generally managed by establishing loiter areas close enough for ground pilots to visually acquire and intercept the aircraft in order to regain positive control. Unmanned aircraft carry a preprogrammed emergency mission that directs the aircraft to return to the loiter area in the event of lost link. Since loiter areas are near the LRS, observers can maintain visual contact with the loitering aircraft.

The range operations lead and pilot-in-command immediately contact controlling agencies once a lost link incident has been identified to provide information required for de-confliction within the range. Controlling agencies include range operations for the test site, approach and departure control and a radio call over the common-range frequency for general aviation. The pilot-in-command is responsible for regaining positive control of the aircraft. Once positive control is gained, the pilot-in-command makes the appropriate radio call to controlling agencies that positive control has been reestablished.


 

Will the operation of the UAS affect the ability of other aircraft in our area to operate safely?

No. A notice to airmen (NOTAM) is filed with the FAA and local ATC facilities identifying UAS operations in the test site. Every pilot is encouraged by the FAA to check all local area NOTAMs prior to flight.


 

Does the UAS have a tracking system?

Yes. UAS flight computers transmit metadata to ground control station (GCS) computers. These data tell operators exactly where the aircraft is located. The data can be exported to third parties to enhance situational awareness on the test site. Larger UAS have Mode C transponders, which are the same as those in commercial U.S. passenger aircraft. These transponders meet all FAA requirements.


 

Does the UAS have a collision avoidance system?

No, a major research goal of the test-site program is to develop ground and airborne sense-and-avoid systems.


 

What types of restrictions will be imposed in the designated test site areas?

No restrictions will be placed on these areas by the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation. As stated above, NOTAMs are filed with the FAA and local ATC facilities identifying UAS operations.


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