The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was recently announced as one of eight governments to continue working on a Federal Aviation Administration program to tackle remaining unmanned aircraft systems challenges.
Package deliveries, pipeline and powerline inspection, flood damage assessment, 911 call responses and even cattle counts are among those challenges imposed on the program.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced Friday the three-year Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) successfully concluded on Oct. 25.
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. made an agreement in December 2019 to add Bell to the Choctaw Nation’s UAS IPP team and begin testing some of the Bell innovations and systems on trible property in rural southeastern Oklahoma.
The flights and tests were to be conducted as part of the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP) in preparation for future planned beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and other more advanced UAS operations.
"The three years of information gathered under the drone Integration Pilot Program will be applied to a new initiative called BEYOND, which will further advance the safe integration of drones into our national space," Chao said in a news release.
A Presidential Memorandum launched the IPP in October 2017 and set off a competitive selection process from 149 applicants. The IPP participants and their industry partners crafted safety cases to operate under the FAA’s existing regulations. The data from the test flights has informed ongoing rulemaking, policy and guidance, and will continue to support future efforts, the release adds.
"The IPP propelled the American drone industry forward, allowing for unprecedented expansions in testing and operations through innovative private-public partnerships across the country," said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios. "Now, the BEYOND program will build upon this success, tackling the next big challenges facing drone integration. The Trump Administration remains committed to the safe and innovative development of drone technologies for the benefit of the American peopl
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson points out that at the onset of the COVID pandemic, many of the IPP participants were able to pivot from their original missions to support the COVID-19 response and recovery. This demonstrated the increasing value of drone operations in this new environment, Dickson noted.
Eight of the nine participants selected for IPP will participate in BEYOND, including: Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority of Virginia; Kansas Department of Transportation; Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority; North Carolina Department of Transportation; North Dakota Department of Transportation, City of Reno, Nev.; and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.