Just some years ago, unmanned aircraft were nearly science fiction; but nowadays, flying drones comprise a sizable segment of our military forces.

On top of that, drones are a part of a growing curriculum at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

A group of students and teachers went out with American Aerospace advisors to an area in Kenedy County on Tuesday. The goal was to fly a drone, or UAV, over the Gulf of Mexico to collect data.

It was their inaugural flight over the Gulf.

The drone has a three camera systems that collect visual images, including infrared and ultraviolet images.

The students hope to map shore bird habitats and sea grasses, and even to detect the different kinds of oil products that come from oil spills.

Tuesday's mission had to have the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, and one FAA regulation for unmanned aircraft is that the drone must be within human eyesight at all times. Someone has to watch it from the ground, or be flying in an aircraft behind it.