CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Texas A&M System Board of Regents has approved the establishment of the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence and Innovation (LSUASC).
The center will function in the areas of research, development, testing and training to support integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace.
“This approval by the Board of Regents strengthens the position of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in becoming one of six federal unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, President/CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “With our research and development capabilities, we are poised to become a leader in what promises to be the future of aviation.”
A statewide team of research institutions and private-sector companies was formed to put together a proposal to the FAA(FAA) that Texas be designated as a UAS test site.
The state of Texas has a big stake in what happens with the FAA test site designation, according to university officials. The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) published an economic impact study in March projecting, once airspace is opened to UAVs, the economic impact on the state of Texas alone would be around $8 billion over the next 10 years.
Locally, getting the FAA approval could mean nearly $50 million in infrastructure development for the Coastal Bend area. That funding is expected to generate more than 1,200 jobs with an overall estimated economic impact of $260 million.
A&M-Corpus Christi has an established UAS program, including extensive airspace authorized by the FAA for UAS operations, university officials note. The university has established a UAS Command and Control Center at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center that will manage the 11 Texas test ranges. University leaders say that even if the university isn’t picked as an official FAA test site, research and development of UAS will continue in Corpus Christi.
“We still have airspace that everyone else wants, and we will partner with anybody who wants to test in it,” said Cifuentes. “I see this type of innovative research as the ‘new age’ for Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.”