Lone Star UAS Provides Support to Nueces County in Midst of COVID-19 Crisis

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – During increased closures of parks and beaches over the Easter weekend due to COVID-19, the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi provided its expertise to the Nueces County Office  of Emergency Management via UAS flights. These flights gathered live and recorded video from locations that are unreachable using ground vehicles. Data was used by city and county officials for enforcement activities.

“Thanks to our UAS technology, we’re in a unique position to help gather data from areas that are inaccessible or too dangerous for city and county officials to traverse,” said Mike Sanders, Executive Director of the Lone Star UAS Center. “This allows us to provide a wealth of data to support emergency operations.”

Flights conducted over Easter weekend were centralized in downtown Corpus Christi along Cole Park and Water’s Edge Park along with various locations on North Padre and Mustang Island, areas that were closed to vehicular traffic to deter large social gatherings. Four different UAS aircraft were used over the weekend and teams were led by Tye Payne, Program Director, Operations.

The Lone Star UAS Center has been called on by Nueces County during other times of crisis including during Hurricane Harvey, due to an interlocal agreement (ILA) which permits Lone Star UAS to provide aerial support during emergencies.

“Every day, people throughout the country and the world are seeing the value of UAS for disaster and emergency operations,” said Payne. “We worked extremely hard following Hurricane Harvey to get the ILA in place to support the County with the overall goal being to support the community we live and work in. While not a large operation this weekend, it definitely shows that the technology, and our crews, are prepared and ready whenever we’re called upon.”

The current ILA expires in 2023.

“Corpus Christi made an investment over six years ago when our University was chosen as one of seven Federal Aviation Administration test sites,” said Sanders. “Thanks to our community’s support, we are in a position where we can give back. We are happy to be good neighbors.”