<P>23 I n the middle of an open pasture, Tom Heard holds a six-foot delta wing of bright yellow and red above his head. The wing trembles against the pull of a taut bungee cord. Heard glances over his left shoulder to James Tennant, the pilot-in-charge, who gives a nod. Heard releases the craft and the delta wing swoops forward like Mighty Mouse, a yellow and red streak in the sky. Moments later, the small electric pusher-prop jumps to life, ?lling the air with a high-pitched whine, not unlike that of the wire-controlled Cox airplanes from decades past. Tennant toggles the controls on a transmitter box, guiding the plane in circles around the pasture as it climbs to its cruising altitude of 400 meters. Satis?ed the systems are functioning properly, he relinquishes control and lets the small aircraft begin piloting itself. The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State has launched another drone mission. Mention drone aircraft to most people and theyll automatically think of the imposing Predators ?own by the CIA in the Middle East. In comparison, the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) ?own by Texas State are downright underwhelming. Fundamentally, we wanted to develop a low-cost, unmanned, autonomous vehicle, primarily oriented toward collection of remotely sensed data from digital cameras, explains Thom Hardy, chief science of?cer of The Meadows Center for the Water and the Environment, a Texas State center aimed at protecting and improving the states water resources. One of our design criteria from the outset was that it had to be off-the-shelf, Radio Shack-level technology. Our system is basically a Hobby Lobby delta-wing Styrofoam aircraft. You can take off and land from remote areas without having to have a dirt strip or highway or anything else. Its very small. It ?ts in the back seat of your car. It has sophisticated electronics to allow it to have a GPS signal and internal navigation where you can pre-program the ?ight, Hardy says. A lot of people dont understand it has nothing to do with domestic spying or things like that. Thats not what our mission is at the center. Our focus is on resource management. Any hobbyist familiar with radio- controlled airplanes would immediately recognize the various gear and materials of the UAV— and could very likely ?y it as well. That was by design, part of an effort to simplify and control costs insisted on by Hardy when he helped develop the UAV project with the Utah State University Water Research Laboratory. Peeling back the Velcro cover to the internal workings of the UAV reveals a few additions that arent so common on standard-issue radio-controlled planes. The UAVs payload contains two image sensors cannibalized from Canon DSLR cameras. One of the sensors captures images in traditional visible light, while the other is modi?ed so that it produces images in the near-infrared portion of the spectrum, a technique long used for tracking the health of vegetation and chlorophyll content. The more we use the plane, the more excited we become for its future applications, says Kristy Kollaus, who graduated from Texas State in 2006, earned her masters in aquatic resources in 2009 and now serves as the UAV team leader for flights. For instance, the team at Utah State is testing a thermal imaging camera that will give us the ability to evaluate stream temperatures, as well as a radio antenna and receiver that will allow us to track ?sh and wildlife with the plane. This should reduce the costs of some of these studies and make them more practical to do. Were excited about what the future of this UAV can hold for the ?eld of biology and natural resource research. Fish were a major concern for the UAV program during the 2011 drought. When the Brazos River ran dry in sections, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department called on Texas State to ?y over the river and locate ponded areas so that native fish could be salvaged as part of the Guadalupe black bass initiative. Halfway through a two-year evaluation period funded by a $260,000 grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas States UAVs are proving to be a cost-effective alternative to traditional ?xed-wing aircraft. A signi?cant percentage of Texas Parks and Wildlifes routine operations — monitoring the health of riparian systems, monitoring gravel mining, doing wetland inventory and even counting of nesting birds — can be completed more quickly with lower costs by using Texas States UAVs, no small consideration in an era of tightening state budgets. Its a nice tool to broaden our scale — we can look at scales that would take a long time to cover on foot. We can fly 10 miles of river in 20 minutes, or ?y over 600 acres of pasture in the same time, and keep doing it, explains Heard, who earned his geography degree from Texas State in 1996 before coming back to complete his masters in aquatic resources in 2008. Its expanded our scale and cut down on our time on the ground trying to interpret sandbars or the effects of controlled burns. Its a nice tool to have in coordination with background work, he says. Youve got a great picture of the river, but youre still going to have to get data on the ground. Its another tool in the toolbox of a biologist. The potential benefit for Texas agri- culture could also prove signi?cant. For the rice farming industry, UAVs offer an effective way to complete annual assessments of canal seepage and nuisance weeds. For the Utah DRONESOVER TEXAS</p> <UL><LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/1/1/">Front-Cover</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/2/2/">Inside-Front-Cover</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/3/3/">Page-1</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/4/4/">Page-2</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/5/5/">Page-3</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/6/6/">Page-4</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/7/7/">Page-5</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/8/8/">Page-6</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/9/9/">Page-7</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/10/10/">Page-8</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/514/tlnucornd/11/11/">Page-9</a></LI> <LI><a 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