• January 20, 2014





Each week I try and feature many of the contemporary issues impacting the State of Texas as well as those affecting the Coastal Bend. This week, I want to discuss one of the emerging industries that is now positioning Corpus Christi and South Texas to be one of the premier places for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) research and development in the nation. Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and their Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft System Center for Excellence and Innovation as one of only six test sites in the nation. This is great news for our area and will assist in the creation of jobs and economic growth.

The economic growth that our area will experience because of this site selection is expected to be significant and a great economic driver for our area. The Association of Unmanned Vehicles International conducted a study that found that this designation could result in an $8 billion economic statewide impact and a $260 million impact here in South Texas over the next 10 years. Additionally, they estimate that over that same time frame, this industry should create around 1,200 jobs. This is a significant victory for the Coastal Bend and makes Texas one of the nation’s leaders in aviation technology.

This journey started with the United States Congress working to pass the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. This act resulted in the congress directing the Federal Aviation Administration to select and establish test sites that would be tasked with the integration of UAS into the National Airspace System. Once this was established, the FAA began soliciting public input and participation during the selection process for these six test sites. During this time frame, proposals from many public entities ranging from universities to governmental organizations were submitted. This initiative by the FAA took numerous things in to consideration to determine which of the applicants had the best ground infrastructure along with the right climate to best develop and implement this emerging technology. By the completion of this process, there were a total of 25 submissions ranging across the nation totaling 24 states.

Over the course of several months, the FAA on December 30, 2013 made its selection of six of the applicants that were submitted to them that they chose to operate UAS test sites here in the United States. One of the six site selections was the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft System Center for Excellence and Innovation, which is located in South Texas at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. This historic selection will make the State of Texas and our area one of the leaders in this emerging and developing industry. With this comes greater research and development of UAS as well as finding ways to utilize and implement this technology. There are numerous applications that UAS can be used to help streamline research in a variety of situations. Some of these advancements could include being able to survey the Texas coast in the event of an oil spill or natural disaster, and for wildlife and game management along with many other applications in resource management.

If you would like to learn more about the UAS program at Texas A&M- Corpus Christi you can go to https://lsuasc.tamucc.edu/.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.state.tx.us or at 512-463-0672.