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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma teaming with Bell to test UAS flights

by Michael Willoughby

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), the third-largest Indian Nation in the United States, is set to carry out tests and flights with flight expert, Bell, on Nation-owned property in rural southeastern Oklahoma.

The tests will be carried out as part of the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

UASIPP gives state, local, and tribal governments an opportunity to partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration. The program will help the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) craft new enabling rules that allow more complex low-altitude operations by:

  • Identifying ways to balance local and national interests related to UAS integration
  • Improving communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions
  • Addressing security and privacy risks
  • Accelerating the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations.

Future missions for the CNO UASIPP team include advanced drone operations – including BVLOS – for agricultural applications, public safety operations, infrastructure inspections, safe operations over people, and weather-related efforts.

“The Choctaw Nation continues to be excited to work with our key strategic teammates like Bell as we begin to foster innovation and utilize new technologies in today’s world,” states James Grimsley, Executive Director of Advanced Technology Initiatives. “Working with an industry leader like Bell validates our investment and highlights all the hard work and success our team has had to date.”

“We are proud and excited to be a part of the CNO UASIPP team,” said Scott Drennan, Bell’s vice president, Innovation. “This agreement will enable us to continue to test our vehicles and work in a collaborative effort with CNO and the FAA to improve aviation technologies and achieve new possibilities together.”

The Choctaw Nation has almost 200,000 tribal members and more than 10,000 employees.

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