Texas A&M Corpus Christi is expecting word by the middle of next week on whether it will be one of six locations nationwide to be selected as FAA designated test centers for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Dr. Ron George, who heads the effort, tells 1200 WOAI news that 25 sites nationwide have applied for the designation, and the A&M Corpus Christi application covers the entire state, and has the support of state officials including Gov. Rick Perry.
He says drones have gotten a bad name for their use in anti terrorism war and fears that they could be used to further invade the privacy of American citizens, but George says the possibilities of drone technology are literally limitless.
"Talk about precision agriculture," he said. "Talk about efficiently and effectively monitoring oil and gas pipelines."
He says fighting the huge Bastrop Complex wildfire east of Austin in 2011 would have been a lot more effective had UAV's been able to fly right into the flames, to determine which direction the fires were spreading without putting a human pilot at risk.
The FAA test sites, which were mandated by Congress, will research and come up with rules and regulations surrounding drones. How high and how low can the fly. How can they be integrated into the airspace alongside existing air traffic. Should drone operators be required to have a license, and, if so, what sort of training should they have to undergo.
Dr. George says being designated a test site would be an economic boost, as private companies which are busy developing UAVs would open engineering and manufacturing operations near the test site. That would lead to start up companies and highly paid jobs for engineers and scientists, as well as in manufacturing.
"Industries, as they say in the police trade, are Jonesin’ for this technology," he said. "They see possibilities everywhere."
The possibilities of UAV's were raised last month by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, who told '60 Minutes' that he is experimenting with delivering packages via drone. Is that possible?
George says that's one of the things the drone test sites will determine.
"He has invested a great deal of time, energy, and treasure into the research he is doing now," George said. "Is it feasible? I don't know."