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Texas UAS test site approved for flights up to 1,200 feet

By Texas A&M-Corpus Christi | September 29, 2016

At the FAA Test Site Technical Interchange Meeting held this week in Corpus Christi, the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation (LSUASC) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, along with the other five federally designated test sites, received a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to fly in Class G airspace, which extends up to 1,200 feet above ground level in many areas. The previous COA capped LSUASC flights at 400 feet. The additional airspace will allow LSUASC to gather more research data on various topics such as coastal erosion, algae growth and wildlife management.

“This new, broader altitude means we can perform higher quality data collection without extensive delay prior to mission execution,” said Jerry Hendrix, LSUASC executive director. “Aircraft sensors’ capabilities vary depending on flight altitudes. The increase in altitude allows the aircraft sensors to image larger areas, such as coastlines, and be more efficient while collecting data.”

An example of the benefit of this increased flying altitude is the use of Lidar and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). SAR sensors perform better at higher altitudes and make the collection of data to answer research questions more effective. The increased operational altitude could also benefit LSUASC’s collaboration with NASA’s UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Project.