MMAC Participates with Choctaw Nation in Emerging Aviation Technology Conference
Vol.8 Issue 3
The Choctaw Nation’s Emerging Aviation Technology Conference was held in Durant, Oklahoma.
While maintaining social distancing practices and providing virtual capability, the Conference attracted over 150 attendees.

In the first week of April, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (in collaboration with the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the University of North Texas) recently hosted the third Regional Emerging Aviation Technology Conference in Durant, Oklahoma. The conference featured speakers and presentations addressing the exciting developments in emerging aviation with topics including: advanced drone technologies, drone delivery, advanced air mobility, and other exciting topics involving aviation technologies.

The two-day event was a haven for those having respect for the wind, the skies, and the creative technologies that we put into it. James Grimsley, Executive Director for Advanced Technology Initiatives provided opening remarks on both days. Special presenters included Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation and Arlando Teller, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs with the Department of Transportation. Other presenters for the event included members from the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DoT), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Commercial Drone Alliance (CDA), The U.S. Air Force AFWERX program, Spright, Google Wing, Supernal, Textron, Airspace Link, Inc. as well as several leaders from the emerging aviation industries and the academic community.

Jay Merkle (L), Executive Director of FAA UAS Integration Office, and James Grimsley (R) of the Choctaw Nation discuss UAS technologies and policies.
Rob Lowe, Regional Administrator of SW Region delivers a presentation to the Conference.

Members attending from the FAA included – program analysts with the SW Region Executive Operations Team – Chuck Tackett and Blair Hess; Rob Lowe, Regional Administrator of SW Region, Jay Merkle, Executive Director, UAS Integration Office, and the Aeronautical Center’s Deputy Director, Kevin O’Connor. O’Connor enlightened the audience about the efforts of the Aeronautical Center by stating, "We have 95% of the equipment that runs the National Airspace System (NAS), physically replicated at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center. All of these capabilities are critical for today’s operation of the NAS, and we’re building the foundation of safety today, for tomorrow’s technologies. We have all of this technology and expertise from across the entire FAA at this one location. We have researchers, maintainers of the NAS, engineers, and technical trainers. It is this synergy that really makes the MMAC a national treasure."

Discussions at the Conference revolved around shared visions with innovative technologies. The topics of sessions under discussion were: STEM and Education/Engagement, Advanced Manufacturing, Supply Chain Ecosystem for Emerging Aviation, Visions and the Path Ahead for STEM and Advanced Manufacturing.

The Choctaw Nation was the first tribal government to be recognized by the FAA as a public aircraft operator. They are also the only tribal government to be selected as a lead participant in the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program.

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