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Island University Provides UAS Imaging and Survey Support to Rockport Post-Harvey

September 06, 2017

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ROCKPORT, Texas – According to CNN, Hurricane Harvey was the strongest storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004 when it hit the Texas Coast on Aug. 25. Since then, the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation (LSUASC) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has partnered with Rick Lusk, Director of the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Surveillance and Research Center at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to conduct imaging and survey missions across the City of Rockport.

Rockport, located 30 minutes north of Corpus Christi, sustained almost 60 percent destruction to its buildings after Hurricane Harvey’s landfall one week ago. At the request of Aransas County Judge Burt Mills, Jerry Hendrix, Director of the LSUASC and Lusk set-out to conduct power line inspections using rotary craft UAS near Holiday Beach, a small bayfront community located eight miles north of Rockport.

Seeing the response to this disaster by people from across the nation, Jerry Hendrix, Director of LSUASC noted, “It’s an honor to assist the fine people of Aransas County while being a part of the monumental effort of Texas and America to help everyone recover.”

While Hendrix and Lusk were conducting their inspections, Jaime McAlister, a Captain of the Rockport Volunteer Fire Department and self-proclaimed drone enthusiast, asked to assist LSUASC and ORNL on their mission. McAlister, who had met the team the day before said it would brighten his day if he could ride-along and show both teams around the city.

“It made sense to include local resident and the Captain of the Volunteer Fire Department. He knows the entire area like the back of his hand and helped to guide our recovery efforts,” said Lusk. “Besides, after seeing this place with my own eyes, how could anyone say no to someone offering to help?”

Rockport is not the only city LSUASC has dispatched drones to provide emergency response assistance. Since Sept. 1, they have sent highly-skilled staff to conduct missions looking for potential oils spills in Port Aransas, assisted the Texas A&M University System in assessing damage to critical infrastructure in Fort Bend County, located west of Houston, and provided environmental monitoring to aid in recovery efforts in the wake of Harvey.

LSUASC, founded at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2013, was established in response to a Federal Aviation Administration initiative to integrate UAS into the national airspace. LSUASC is composed of a team of highly engaged researchers, entrepreneurs and aviation industry professionals. ORNL connects industry with world-class research tools and capabilities through its Unmanned Aerial Systems Research Center. The center is industry’s gateway to ORNL core capabilities in systems engineering and integration, which are essential to translating breakthrough science into commercialized applications.

 Both centers agreed to work together on UAS technology when they established a Memorandum of Agreement in 2016.