CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas— Oil may be king in South Texas, but the new Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) test site designation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could soon crown a queen for the area. Aviation companies are starting to open offices in Corpus Christi, seeking to get in on the ground floor of the new economic boom centered at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center (CBBIC).
The University’s Lone Star UAS Center, in the top floor of the CBBIC, is one of only six federal test sites that will provide data the FAA will use to safely integrate UAS in the national airspace.
Being near these test sites is a key factor for companies developing UAS technologies and business uses, said Dr. John Gamble, Dean of the College of Business.
“We are already seeing that happen with the opening of two new aerospace businesses at the CBBIC,” he said. “Over the next 10 years, the economic impact of being designated a UAS test site is projected to be about $8 billion statewide, with $260 million in South Texas that will create about 1,200 jobs.”
Leaders with American Aerospace Advisors, Inc. (AAAI), and Balboa Mapping said they have set up shop in the CBBIC to take advantage of these opportunities. AAAI, a Pennsylvania-based company, creates unmanned systems, and helped the University customize its largest UAV, the RS-16. Balboa Mapping develops precision agriculture services using aerial and satellite imagery.
“This is an incredible opportunity for our students,” said Bill Cone, Director of the entrepreneurship center. “Bringing these types of high-technology businesses to South Texas gives our engineering students and our business students experience working with companies that they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
Supported by the University’s College of Business, the entrepreneurship center promotes the successful development of innovative companies through an array of support resources and services. Research shows that by participating in this type of program, new businesses are twice as likely to succeed. Students work directly with companies through all stages of development and implementation.
“The FAA designation speaks volumes about the good resources we currently have in our region that will enable us to be leaders in this field,” said Cone. “As new companies emerge and move to the Coastal Bend, new opportunities will follow.”
News of the FAA designation seems to have resulted in an increase of applicants, 12 since December, including a Denmark company interested in entering the American market, Cone said.
David Yoel, CEO of AAAI, shares the excitement about the opportunities developing in the Coastal Bend area for their businesses.
“American Aerospace sees a bright future in South Texas, including the development, manufacture, and test of long-endurance UAS mission systems for several civilian applications,” said Yoel. “The Coastal Bend brings an outstanding venue for our entrepreneurial enterprise which is focused on civilian applications of long endurance UAS.”
For more information about the CCBIC, click here.