Brewster Street Icehouse in Corpus Christi was filled to the brim on Monday night with hundreds of people in attendance, including community and university leaders, to celebrate Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi's new designation as one of only six test sites in the country for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
"We're now an official test range for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones as some people like to call them. It's a pretty exciting time for the University, and I think, for aviation history," said Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi President, Dr. Flavius Killebrew. "We're thanking the people who helped make this happen; we're talking about the impact it's going to have on not only our area, but the whole state of Texas."
Dr. Killebrew states that the National Unmanned Aircraft System organization estimates that this is going to have an $8 billion impact on Texas, and should bring upwards of 1,200 jobs. For our area alone, the project is estimated to bring $250-300 million. These numbers definitely give reason to celebrate.
"What this project is going to do is set the stage for a whole new set of aviation. The test range is from south Texas, to College Station, Alpine, all the way back here. The economic development from this is going to be tremendous," said John Sharp, Chancellor of Texas A&M University Systems. "Corpus Christi's University has had good presidents over the years, but Dr. Flavius Killebrew, with this, set himself on a different stage, and set himself a part from all of the other ones that have ever been. This is one of the most important projects that Texas has undertaken, much less one that has been led by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi."
The UAS project by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi stems back a year and half, when Killebrew approached Sharp for the project's backing from the University Systems. Sharp agreed, opening the door for the future success of the UAS test range. Backed by the governor as the only test site bid from Texas, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's presentation was selected by the FAA from 25 other proposals from around the country.
The UAS Command and Control Center, located at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center in Flour Bluff, will manage a 6,000-square mile airspace, spanning 11 test ranges.
"What Dr. Killebrew has done, and a lot of people told him that he couldn't, is pull it off and make Corpus Christi the center of FAA research in the future of the county."