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University Researchers Installing Multi-Spectral ‘Drone’ Camera

December 11, 2013

UAS Training

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi researchers and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) experts from American Aerospace partnered this week to install a multi-spectral, 3-camera system into the University unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and collaborated on how to operate the equipment most effectively.

“This camera system can be used for mapping sea grass, detecting hotspots in wildfires, detecting oil spills in the ocean, and counting livestock,” said Dr. David Bridges, Director of the UAS Initiative at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

 The three cameras are all high-definition video cameras; an electro-optical camera for mapping, an ultraviolet camera for detecting petroleum products on the ground and in water, and an infrared camera for detecting hotspots in wildfires and finding cattle. 

“On a cold morning, the cows show up as bright dots in the infrared image,” said Bridges.  “We will soon be expanding our efforts to include the monitoring of buried pipelines, to detect leaks and also potential threats from surface operations such as digging.” 

The system also has an on-board GPS and inertial navigation system (INS), along with an onboard computer.  The system uses the GPS to tag each image acquired with the location and altitude of the airplane.  The INS provides the orientation information for the airplane so that the ground location of the image can be determined during post-mission processing.  The on-board computer stores all of this image data, and it is downloaded once the airplane is back on the ground.

Bridge’s team, along with American Aerospace, also installed new communication equipment on the mobile operation center and tested the connection between the UAV and the center.

American Aerospace, a Pennsylvania company, built the University UAV and has recently opened an office at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center in anticipation of the University becoming one of six Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) UAS test sites.

The FAA decision is expected by the end of December and is projected to have an economic impact of around $260 million dollars, in the South Texas alone, over the next 10 years.          

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