Brazos Valley 2020: Unmanned Aviators

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COLLEGE STATION, Tex (KBTX) - in late 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration streamlined the registration process for so-called unmanned aviators, and the use of drones has soared.

Image Source: Joe / Wikipedia / CC BY 2.0 / MGN

The Texas A&M Engineering Extension sees the chance to pilot a new program.

"I think drones are going to be the wave of the future," says Kyle McNew, a Training Manager at TEEX. "There are a lot of ways that we haven't even thought about [with] the application of drones."

McNew and his team certify people from law enforcement officers to those in private companies to take to the skies safely.

"Our goal is to be nationwide, and even worldwide if needed, to provide training and expertise in the UAS market," says Chris Gable, the Program Director for The National Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Center at TEEX.

"Whether you're a lineman and using [drones] to inspect power lines, firemen for search and rescue, law enforcement for oversight, we want to be that one-stop-shop for the whole industry."

Gable thinks the tools to lead the industry are right here in the Brazos Valley.

"I Don't think there's another university that can offer the things that we can bring to the table.".

In a dynamic, ever-evolving new industry, training manager Clint Arnett says natural disasters present a unique opportunity to learn as we go.

"Even since hurricane Harvey we've had a lot of successful operations where drones were used to really make a difference," Arnett says.

"[There is a] lot of potential for developing new and better ways to do these kinds of operations, and people are out there doing it now. As users are out there, better practices are [actively] being put together."

Tomorrow's technology will be able to see in ways we cant While keeping first responders out of harm's way.

This is exciting news, to be sure. But almost creepy. McNew urges us not to panic, especially from a law enforcement perspective.

"I can't fly at 5,000 feet and take a picture of your license plate and VIN number," McNew says.

"It's just not feasibly capable with the equipment we use. In order for me to get a good close up or a decent photograph, you're going to hear the drone flying. It's not like we're sneaking up on you."

Whether it's the police, emergency response, your coworker, or your neighbor, be prepared to see these buzzing overhead a lot more often. Who knows? They may even start talking to you.