Island University Receives FAA Approval to Fly Small-Scale UAS Over Campuses

June 6, 2014
University officials say that this approval will help prepare graduate students in Geographic Information Science (GIS) and Geospatial Surveying Engineering (GSEN) for real-world situations.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly its small-scale unmanned aircraft system (UAS) platform over the campus to map the infrastructure of both the main Island University and the Momentum Campus.

University officials say that this approval will help prepare graduate students in Geographic Information Science (GIS) and Geospatial Surveying Engineering (GSEN) for real-world situations, opportunities that they cannot receive anywhere else.

“This is one of the first operations we are aware of that has been approved by the FAA to allow a small unmanned aircraft to fly an entire university campus on a recurring basis,” said Dr. Michael Starek, Assistant Professor of GIS and GSEN. “We will use imagery acquired by the system to monitor campus facilities and derive 3-D models of the infrastructure as well as to monitor shoreline change and assess coastal hazards facing our island campus.”

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi students have already been assisting the University with numerous survey projects that include utility mapping, road construction, and boundary delineations.

“This program truly is a win-win in every aspect,” said Kathryn Funk-Baxter, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration. “Each aerial flight conducted by a student saves the University around $1,500 and provides the University students with real life experiences. When they do an aerial survey using ground control GPS coordinates to acquire survey grade data, this would likely result in a savings of up to $200,000 had the survey been contracted by a firm to perform.”

The students have been hands-on in numerous University-related projects. Those include establishing accurate survey controls on both campuses to ensure all surveying projects are connected to the Master Plan; field surveying construction progress of Momentum campus and Curlew Plaza; verifying boundaries of ground leases on University property, developing a standard operating procedure; and evaluating the Computer Aided Design Master Plan and accurately locating all new projects for the University administration.

About Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi: Offering more than 60 of the most popular degree programs in the state, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has proudly provided a solid academic reputation, renowned faculty, and highly-rated degree programs since 1947.  The Island University has earned its spot as a premier doctoral-granting institution, supporting two institutes and 13 research centers and labs. Discover your island at

About the College of Science and Engineering: The College of Science and Engineering offers cutting-edge programs supported by award-winning faculty deeply-invested in education and the growth and continuation of knowledge from one generation to the next. As one of the leading institutions for coastal, marine, and environmental research, the College is committed to maintaining an academic environment in which students develop as dynamic professionals who will make significant contributions to society. The College is the academic home of faculty endowed by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, one of the foremost leaders in the support and advancement of the long-term use and conservation of the world’s ninth largest body of water. The College also houses the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science, a center of geospatial research and coastal monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico and the Center for Coastal Studies, recognized internationally for research in harmful algae and their toxins.