CORPUS CHRISTI —Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi unveiled its new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) command and control center during an event held on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center.
“We are in ‘phase one’ of the development of the command and control center,” said Dr. Luis Cifuentes, Vice President of Research, Commercialization and Outreach. “Eventually, it will control all of the UAV test ranges around the state.”
The University’s Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Initiative, and its 6,000 square miles of available airspace, is in competition to be named one of six Federal Aviation Administration UAV test sites. The command and control center is in preparation for that designation, which is expected to be announced in December.
This is the only site from Texas being considered by the FAA, and has the backing of Texas Governor Rick Perry. A representative from his office, Mr. Keith Graf, Director, Aerospace, Aviation, and Defense & Texas Military Preparedness Commission, toured the University UAV command and control center during Tuesday’s event and was impressed with what he saw.
The state of Texas has a big stake in what happens with the FAA test site designation. The Associations of Unmanned Vehicles International published an economic impact study in March projecting, once airspace is opened to UAV’s, the economic impact on the state of Texas alone would be around $8 billion over the next 10 years.
“With the center of that economic being the Coastal Bend area, the economic impact here would be absolutely significant,” said Joe Henry, Director of Camber Corporation.
The Camber Corporation is collaborating with the University and several other entities to secure the FAA test site. Camber is a leader in UAV technology and was approached by several states to help in developing test sites, but chose Texas because of what the University has to offer.
“The intellectual energy and intellectual capital this university brought to the table, along with the leadership and the vision of both University President Dr. Flavius Killebrew and Dr. Luis Cifuentes, makes us very excited about our partnership with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi,” said Henry. “We have no doubt that this site will be chosen.”
After the FAA announces its decision, the six test sites will have six months to be up and running at full speed. Cifuentes says this command center will be necessary even if Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi isn’t chosen as one of the sites.
"We still have airspace that everyone else is going to want, and we will partner with anybody who wants to use it,” said Cifuentes. “I see this type of innovative research as the ‘new age’ for Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.”