Scott: If your geek is on, well, keep it on! The success of commercial flying robots depends on innovation and tons of talented people. Maggie Rulli has more in the second day of her series on drones.
Expert: The electronics that control the motor.
Maggie: As the commercial drone industry begins to take off, the need for drone developers is beginning to skyrocket.
Orion Vazquez: As an engineer, playing with robots and that whole research and development thing is just really exciting.
Maggie: Many colleges and universities across the nation are combining their robotics, engineering, and computer science programs to create degrees which they hope will give students an edge in the growing drone industry.
Why are you so excited to be working with unmanned aircraft?
Cody Torno: Well, it’s a newer field, and so the opportunity as an undergraduate to work with them is kind of unique.
Maggie: Cody Torno is a student at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi, one of the few schools in the nation approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as UAVs, outside of a research facility.
Cody: A lot of work goes into every preflight, post, and the development of the vehicles has to be extremely accurate.
Maggie: Accurate because once the aircraft is launched, it is controlled autonomously, meaning no human pilot is needed. It is controlled completely by computer programming.
Cody: And it flies the flight path using a simple mapping software similar to Google Maps.
Maggie: And although these things may looking like toys, losing one because of faulty programming could cost the university a lot of money. The school’s largest drone, the RS-16, comes with a price tag of over $200,000. So every time it is launched, it is tracked by multiple command centers, as well as a human-piloted plane.
Cody: Every flight you take a risk of losing your investment.
Maggie: But it is a risk they are willing to take, because opening up the skies to commercial drones will be a big business.
Professor Kevin Kochersberger: It’s going to make agricultural productivity much higher, it’s going to save lives, it’s going to allow us to monitor infrastructure, it’s going to allow us to provide services for businesses that we don’t even anticipate.
Maggie: It is estimated to have an economic impact of about $8 billion in Texas alone. And research in South Texas could create more than a thousand jobs in the Corpus Christi region over next ten years.
Ron George: Technological development in aviation never stops. I mean, once these aircraft are integrated into the national airspace, we’re still going to be developing technologies that will make their performance even better.
Maggie: And for Cody, not even the thrill of spring break…
Cody: I can go to the beach any day.
Maggie: …Could pull him away from the lab or his UAV.
Cody: When I finish building mine, that’ll be probably be the happiest moment of my educational career. But until then, I’m working hard to get to that point.
Maggie: Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.
Scott: For a look at some drones that have already taken to the skies, head to ChannelOne.com.