The Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation, a partnership between Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, went into action recently to assess flood damage and help with search-and-rescue operations in Texas. The center is one of six chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test and assist in the commercial integration of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) sensors.
A team of three people was deployed to Wimberley, Texas, to conduct low-altitude survey flights to find missing persons, livestock and vehicles. An infrastructure assessment is also part of the mission, including bridges, roadways and rail lines.
“Our hearts go out to those who have suffered great losses in Hays County,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, president and CEO of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “We are making every effort to support recovery efforts there with tools we believe will be of value to state and local emergency-management personnel.”
The research vehicles include an AscTec Falcon 8 provided by HUVRData, Austin, Texas, equipped with high-definition video and thermal-imaging cameras and multispectral sensors; a senseFly eBee provided by Urban Engineering, Corpus Christi, Texas, equipped with a 16-megapixel camera and a 12-megapixel near-infrared camera; and a DJI Phantom quadcopter provided by A&M-Corpus Christi’s iCORE Lab and the university’s College of Science and Engineering equipped with a 16-megapixel video camera and a forward-looking infrared camera.
The research flights are intended be of service and test the process for rapid UAS response during emergencies. The FAA lifted UAS restrictions recently, enabling the six test sites to conduct low-altitude missions (under 200 feet) anywhere in the United States.