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Drone Testing Begins In Texas

The RS-16 is brought in at low altitude before landing.

A university research team in Texas was one of six teams selected by the FAA recently to begin testing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — otherwise known as drones. The main focus of the testing is to work out safety and communication issues, and huge chunks of Texas have been designated as potential testing sites. But some parts of the state are not keen on the idea.

It’s clear sunny day in Kenedy County, Texas. The site where Texas A&M Corpus Christi tests its unmanned aerial vehicles, called RS-16, is on a ranch so large that it's a 45 minute drive from the ranch gate to the test site.

The testing field is mostly green except for a white tent, a few generators, and a trailer whose roof bristles with satellite dishes and antennas.

"This is the equivalent of going from propellers to jets. This is the next big thing in aviation," said John Huguley, the mission commander and a UAV booster.

The media is here to see the RS-16 take off. After two hours of prep, this orange and grey plane, 10 times the size of a typical model airplane, is launched into the air via slingshot.

It’s monitored and controlled by at least two people in the trailer. Matt McCurdy is the internal pilot. He can change its route simply by clicking a mouse.

“What you see here is the data coming down from the aircraft and this allows me to control the aircraft, tell where it needs to go, how high it should fly, and what airspeed it should be flying at," McCurdy explains.

Read the rest of the post on Fronteras Desk