In May, the Choctaw Nation hosted the second annual Emerging Aviation conference, bringing in an impressive list of speakers. To name a few, several members of the Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall and Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer at the White House Michael Kratsios.
In May of 2018, the FAA selected the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma as one of 10 participants in its UASIPP. Since that time the Nation has successfully completed several tasks using drone technology:
• Electrical infrastructure inspections using one pilot for more than one aircraft.
• The first public demonstration of open drone ID technology for a mode of identification.
• Successful night operations to manage local livestock herds.
• Members of the Choctaw Nation team have leveraged other emerging technologies like artificial intelligence to count herd animals.
• Test advanced detect and avoid systems for use in beyond visual line of site operations.
Perhaps the most noteworthy though, was the inventive decision to fly a drone at more than 4,000 feet to drop dry corn in traps used to catch feral hogs.
Speaking of the Choctaw Nation Kratsios said, “You continue to show you understand the challenges we need to overcome as a country to advance our drone use and you have the willingness and the ability to meet those challenges.”
By being involved in this program, the Choctaw Nation is able to help shape the future of the next wave of aviation technology. It’s not just the future of the technology the Nation is helping to shape though.
Sitting scattered throughout the crowd were students from across the districts and beyond. The presence of this younger generation did not go unnoticed to the speakers at the conference.
Charles McCall, Oklahoma House of Representatives speaker said, “We have to continue to focus state resources in higher education, as well as common education, to try to identify those with a passion. Those with talent that want to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics and put them on the track to develop those young talents for future generations.”
With the Choctaw Nation’s involvement with these emerging technologies, they are giving the youth across the area an opportunity to be a part of this next revolution in aviation.
The long-range effects of the Nation being involved at an early stage in the development of drone technologies will also have an impact on the tribe as a whole. The 10 ½ counties are situated in a prime position for testing and development of new technologies that larger companies will need.
Given the close proximity to major hubs such as Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Dallas/Fort Worth, coupled with the availability of non-restricted airspace, makes the Nation appealing for new development related to unmanned aircraft.
Chief Gary Batton said, “This will allow us to do basic leasing businesses, meaning renting of our spaces. It will also allow us to get into the technology field, as well as general aviation and manufacturing.”
When the Wright brothers left the ground for the first time the only other thing in the sky were birds. Since that time, there have been two distinct revolutions in aviation. First, jet engines and commercial flight, and now drones and unmanned flights. With the Choctaw Nation’s presence at the forefront of this latest revolution, it is taking another step in strengthening its future.
Biskinik June 2019