From killing bad guys in Pakistan to delivering packages for Amazon.com, the world of small, radio-controlled, unmanned aircraft has created a buzz in many circles.
The flying craft, smaller than helicopters, has many commercial uses, including surveillance and agriculture.
What caused a whir around these parts was Thursday’s front-page story in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times about a test site in this region.
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi officials expect to learn by Dec. 31 if the U.S. government has selected their proposal.
It is one of 25 which could be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for the research of unmanned aircraft systems. The proposed test site extends from the Big Bend area down to South Texas, including Bee County.
The report concluded with Joe B. Montez, executive director for the Bee Development Authority, saying that Beeville’s 1,500-acre Chase Field Airport is equipped to assist as a test range.
He said the proposal, if selected, could create an estimated 100 to 150 jobs, helping to replace some of the 300 jobs lost when Sikorsky left in 2012 thanks to the federal sequestration.
“We’re ready,” Montez said. “We’re waiting on that notification,” referring to the Lone Star UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Initiative.
He added this would provide valuable exposure to the field of unmanned aircraft research at the former naval air station. Many well-known corporations are studying ways to implement their use.
“We (Chase) would be the main airport for launch and recovery, testing, and possibly repair and maintenance,” Montez said.
In a story that appeared in the Bee-Picayune about four months ago, BDA officials were appealing to U.S. Congressman Filemon Vela for his assistance in Washington, D.C.
Montez said then the proposed five-year pilot program would involve testing unmanned aircraft systems for integration into the civilian aviation field.
He said that six sites would be selected nationwide to participate in the pilot program, telling Vela that Chase Field is blessed with “clear blue skies and open air space, along with large runways and hangars.”
Montez said the BDA has promised Texas A&M University, which would staff the program, up to one of its large hangars at Chase.
The drone program would be used to survey agriculture and conditions over the Gulf of Mexico and would not be used to watch humans, he said.
Here’s hoping that BDA officials will receive a nice Christmas present, dropping from the friendly skies onto Chase Field’s runways, and delivering economic blessings in the coming years.