It's a first! TAMU-Corpus Christi drone-based plant studyIt's a first! TAMU-Corpus Christi drone-based plant studyhttps://www.recenter.tamu.edu/news/newstalk-texas/?Item=15772015-03-04T14:31:00Z2015-03-04T00:00:00Z

CORPUS CHRISTI - Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M AgriLife Research have received the state’s first permit to use drones to conduct agricultural research at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center.

Research will begin soon in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles — UAVs, sometimes called drones — that are expected to help growers improve crop quality and yields while reducing production costs, savings that could be passed on to consumers.

The first test flight of the UAV, a fixed-wing lightweight platform called a Sensefly eBee, will take flight within days, according to Dr. Michael Starek, assistant professor of geospatial surveying engineering at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Such systems can be equipped with specialized cameras to precisely map where crops are stressed, assess moisture conditions, image 3-D plant structure, detect pest infiltration, and potentially determine early on where crops are diseased.

Compared to traditional aircraft or satellites, UAVs provide the capability to scout crops at a fraction of the cost and at spatial and temporal scales previously unattainable.

Current FAA regulations prohibit flying unmanned aircraft systems for commercial purposes. While a few companies have received waivers or permits, the permit that A&M-Corpus Christi and AgriLife Research received is specific to their role as state agencies and does not pertain to commercial uses.

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