Regents Approve Center for Development, Research and Testing of Unmanned Aircraft in Corpus Christi

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) as a joint Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) center.

The LSUASC will function in the general areas of research, development, testing and training to support safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace and would be headquartered in Corpus Christi.

“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.”

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Down on the farm with drones

Patrick_Egan3There are bushels of folks out there now spending money and putting time in finding niches for unmanned systems that already exist. You may be saying, isn’t that what we should be doing? Possibly, but first we have to understand that the idea of carrying sensors on aircraft is not revolutionary, it has been going on for years. Drones too, but we are supposed to act like it doesn’t happen because FAA policy says so.

At the lower end of the data collection spectrum of course is photography. Pretty pictures may be enough to satisfy some. However, others may need just a little more data to make all of the regulatory hassle and cash outlay worthwhile. Let’s use the pick-up truck analogy that has been bandied about. Sure you can haul your roller-skates, but does the added expense and cost to operate justify the outlay?

The broad brush of application lacks definition and is almost as wild and vague as the general public’s capabilities concept of drones. Yes, they can do a lot of something, but what can they really do, and more important still, what is the value proposition? There is a lot of cheap data, but cheap is not always good if you are the one that has signed up to supply it.

This is where the public drone conversation meshes on both the pro and con side of the issue. Plenty of people mistakenly assume that many of these sensors are revolutionary, and cannot, nor have they ever been flown until the advent of the drone. Not so much, as there are companies that have been doing this type of work for many years, even employing kites and balloons.

Even those who do not possess an advanced degree in Thinkology understand the prima facie value proposition: lessen farm inputs while increasing farm outputs. Still, many for some reason totally disregard the fact that you can hire, or buy a single engine aircraft that affords the capacity of flying almost anywhere in the National Airspace System (NAS). So, for +/- $100 per hour you can fly an array of different sensors completely unfettered by purely arbitrary regulatory criteria.

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Experts discuss legal impact of potential UAS industry boom

Dayton officials expect the unmanned aerial systems industry to explode in the next few years, which means new legal issues will accompany the burgeoning industry.  A search for aviation law experts doesn’t bring up a lot of names in the Dayton area, but that could soon change.

Dayton officials expect the unmanned aerial systems industry to explode in the next few years, which means new legal issues will accompany the burgeoning industry.

Since unmanned aircraft is the fastest growing sector of the aviation industry, aviation law experts will need to dive into the intricacies of UAS law, which could touch on areas from privacy law to regulatory issues to patent law.

Bob Hanseman, a partner with Sebaly Shillito and Dyer and chair of the government contracts practice, said if the Dayton area becomes a designated test site for unmanned aircraft, it would lead to a boom in the local legal industry focused on aviation law.

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UAS market could boom in transition to civilian use

In Terry Sando’s National Guard career, he has seen how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can be an asset in surveillance and rescue operations.

But when asked about the future of Grand Forks’ UAS industry, Sando talks extensively about its possible applications in the commercial sector. Sando, who was hired last month as the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp.’s UAS sector senior manager, expects much of the industry’s growth to come from uses by farmers and law enforcement.

North Dakota’s push to become a national hub for the UAS industry is partially led by those with a military background, like Sando. But they say that the technology that emerged for military and defense purposes has a bright future in the commercial sector.

“Like many technologies, they start out in the military first,” said Robert Becklund, the executive director of the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority. “And then they transition and find opportunities in the civilian market.”

“Unmanned aircraft are no different.”

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Drones and the Future of Movies

The technology behind our unmanned spyplanes and bombers will soon help even microbudget filmmakers capture awesome overhead shots. It could also make movies a lot creepier.

If you’re a filmmaker on a credit-card budget, you probably can’t afford a helicopter to take those aerial shots of cityscapes and landscapes that big-budget filmmakers use to create a sense of panoramic grandeur. But you can afford the next best thing: a flying drone camera. That’s right: the same technology that allows the U.S. to spy remotely and to drop bombs from unmanned aircraft also allows you to capture killer bird’s-eye-view shots for your movie.

Drone cinematography is still in its primitive stage. For one thing, the UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) don’t have much range (about a mile) and only have enough battery life for 10 to 15 minutes of flight. Plus, the built-in cameras only have 720p resolution, or medium high-definition. (That’s about the quality you might get on a good smartphone.) But the latest drones also come with a camera mount so that they can hoist full HD (1080p) GoPro sports cameras. There’s still the little snag that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not yet permit private businesses to operate drones in the United States. (Non-commercial filmmakers may use them, but only below 400 feet and in sparsely populated areas.) But the agency will begin issuing drone licenses to businesses by 2015, and Hollywood could be the first set of private users.

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Drones ready to fight fires – if allowed

CyberQuad Maxi UAA LACK of regulation is delaying the use of drone aircraft for low-level aerial surveillance of Australian bushfires and their potential to save lives.

With NSW having one of its worst bushfires in spring and a foreboding, hot summer to come, a company that makes drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as some call them, said the technology was well-developed to have large, remotely controlled drones combing troubled skies right now.

“Drones or UAVs are ready to support those types of operations,” said Brisbane-based Insitu Pacific business development manager Richard Aplin.

Remotely controlled UAVs flying above bushfires could pinpoint where fire lines were, assess heat pockets using infrared technologies, assist in identifying where fires were going, and help decide where evacuations were needed.

They also could monitor from above vehicle and fire fighters on foot, and relay communications to those on the ground.

Some larger UAVs could carry small amounts of water, too, but generally unmanned aircraft were too light to do this now, Mr Alpin said.

In August, Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) began trialling two CyberQuad Maxi and two CyberQuad Mini quadcopters developed by WestAustralian UAV firm Cyber Technology.

MFB commander Will Glenn said they were controlled up to optimally 100m away within sight and the Maxis already had proved “extremely useful”.

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NC State steps up drone testing ahead of 2015 launch

The state that was once home to the world’s first aviators is now launching efforts to use pilotless planes in agriculture and other industries.

Unmanned aerial vehicles – commonly known as drones or UAVs – are widely used in the military. But as their civil applications become clear, N.C. State University and its transportation research centers are working to make the state a leader in UAV technology before 2015, the year UAVs may officially assume their place in the nation’s airspace.

Civil UAVs are far smaller and much less destructive than military drones.

With wingspans of just a few feet, they’re often launched by hand and outfitted with remote sensing equipment designed to collect detailed data from the air. UAVs are able to produce nuanced images of large land areas, rendering them particularly useful for commercial agriculture and geographic surveys.

Army asks Norwegian company to design Black Hornet pocket UAV helicopter for foot soldiers

U.S. Army researchers are asking a Norwegian company to develop a pocket-sized helicopter drone to provide a personal reconnaissanceunmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for infantrymen and Special Forces warfighters.

Officials of the Army Contracting Command in Natick, Mass., are awarding a $2.5 million contract to Prox Dynamics AS of Nesbru, Norway, to develop the Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System (PRS) — a one-pound force-protection micro UAV for soldiers and small infantry units.

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No Seat Belts Required: Drone Hobbyists Talk Safety

Christopher Vo pilots his aircraft as local drone enthusiasts gather for a Maryland fly-in at an airport in Laytonsville, Md.

Last month, I got hit by a drone. No, it was not a giant surveillance robot, or a sinister armed device. It was a cute little quadcopter about the size of a coconut, operated by a professor who built it for fun.

The hobby of building and flying drones has grown rapidly over the last few years, as technology has gotten cheaper and open source autopilotsoftware has been smoothed out by thousands of users. With such rapid growth comes the growing pain that most nascent hobbies run into — when to come up with rules.

Recent incidents — on scales much larger than the little drone hitting me in the shoulder — have gotten amateur drone users thinking more about safety.

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Congressmembers sign letter of support for Cal UAS, San Diego, USA

Five Representatives join growing list of support of Inyokern-led effort for a UAV test site designation.

In a show of support, five members of Congress from San Diego and Imperial Counties signed a letter on Thursday supporting an Inyokern-led effort to secure a unmanned aircraft systems test site designation from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The information began with a release from a tweet from a California state senator.
“Congrats to @CaliforniaUAS! (The) Entire San Diego/Imperial County House delegation signed a support letter for official FAA UAS/UAV test site,” Sen. Jean Fuller (R — Bakersfield) said via Twitter on Thursday.

California Unmanned Systems Portal confirmed Fuller’s statement Thursday night with the support letter itself.
Representatives Darrell Issa, Scott Peters, Juan Vargas, Susan Davis and Duncan Hunter announced their support of Cal UAS and its partners in Inyokern in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and James Williams, the FAA manager for UAS flight standards.
“San Diego is a center of aerospace technology, and the region meets and/or exceeds the criteria put forth by the FAA for a UAS/UAV test site,” the joint letter states.

The five federal lawmakers stated that the area that Cal UAS Portal has mapped out as its proposed range of operations “spans a diverse geography and climate conditions, which is vital to compiling a robust body of data to guide decisions on how to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS).” That area includes desert and mountain terrain to maritime environment close to San Diego.
Eileen Shibley, leader of the Cal UAS Portal team, called the support welcome news.

“The Cal UAS Team is so excited about this showing of support from the San Diego and Imperial Counties Representatives,” Shibley said by email Thursday night. “It’s a full showing of their support of Cal UAS and is signed by every one of their Congressional Representatives.”

Shibley said that in addition to the Congressional support, Cal UAS has also received the support of the San Diego Lindbergh Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The AUVSI is the world’s largest organization advocating and advancing the commercial use of unmanned systems.

The San Diego-area lawmakers are the latest to throw their support behind Cal UAS and its partners. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R — Bakersfield) has long backed Inyokern, as have Fuller and Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R — Bakersfield).

Cal UAS Portal is only one in 25 potential teams in 24 states vying for one of six test site designations that the FAA will name by December.

The test sites is an initial step in the FAA’s directive to integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into the national airspace by the end of 2015, a task handed down to them by Congress in 2012. A test site designation would reduce the onerous requirements the FAA places on operating unmanned systems.

Hot startup: Airpix builds unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial use

Hot startup: Airpix builds unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial useA project that began on a lark on a college campus has turned into a commercial venture for a team of three 22-year-old engineers. Intrigued by the idea of a small flying machine that could buzz around snapping photos, Aniket Tatipamula began tooling around in his college lab in an attempt to build a prototype.

“But his drones wouldn’t fly for the first two years,” says Rajesh Mane, a junior who would often work in the same laboratory at the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute in Mumbai.

It was only after they finished college and started corporate jobs that Tatipamula realised that the quadcopters he was experimenting with, also colloquially referred to as drone cameras, had immense commercial potential.

The team pooled in around Rs 2 lakh to develop one which unfortunately crashed very quickly. Undeterred they turned to senior college-mates for help and pooled in a further Rs 6 lakh to begin afresh.

“The subsequent copters built by us were much better, and withstood commercial demands,” says Mane who dropped out of college and joined Tatipamula, and another friend Neeraj Waghchaure, who quit their jobs, to launch Airpix in March this year. They now have three quadcopters ready and two more in the inventory.

Typically they import the motors and a few other parts but have designed their own chassis and control systems. “We can now build a finished quadcopter within a week,” says Mane, the chief operating officer of Airpix.

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No ‘drones’ for Alpine

DroneAlpine may be out of the running in a competition for a federal unmanned aerial vehicle test site.

The Texas Municipal League announced last week it has adopted a resolution supporting the Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi application to the Federal Aviation Administration to be named one of six sites still in the running but the only one in Texas. There has been some controversy over the issue in Alpine with opponents citing both privacy and safety concerns. Some were worried that, even if the only UAVs here would be test vehicles without “spying” software on board, they still were concerned over the potential of a spying on the back yard picnic. Others worried that the unmanned aircraft could interfere with local air traffi c at Casparis Municipal Airport. “With the backing of Governor Rick Perry, we are the only site in Texas being considered,” said Dr. Luis Cifuentes, vice president of research, commercialization and outreach. “The resolution from the TML demonstrates the financial impact the FAA designation will have on every community in the state.” Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez, who also is TML presidentelect, said the TML endorsement should makefederal offi cials take notice. “

The strong show of support from Texas cities should be a tremendous boost to the state’s application,” Martinez said. “Texas has unmatched airspace, a strong business climate, cutting- edge research partnerships and broad public support from state and local governments, higher education institutions and the private sector.” The University’s Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Initiative and its 6,000 square miles of available airspace is in competition with 24 other locations around the country for the federal designation.

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