We’ve all seen the stories and updates about the forward-leaning work going on at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO). I have been eager to get out to the Daisy Ranch to see the results of years of hard work and leadership on the validating edge of AAM/UAS.
Oklahoma is a UAS visionary State when it comes to drones. They are in for the long haul on the AAM integration validation game. I remember first meeting the Oklahoma delegation at the 2011 Paris Airshow. Advocating for unmanned aviation back then raised eyebrows in some traditional aviation circles. We have yet to learn when the FAA and other CAAs would promulgate rules and develop policies that would eventually enable commercial operations.
The FAA mantra was “We need data,” the community folks became increasingly frustrated with data egg and chicken conversations questioning how we would collect data when we couldn’t legally fly. A carve-out for a UAS test site concept was hatched during the sUAS ARC back in double ought nine, but agreement on the data needed was anything but solid.
Fast forward to the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP) launched to accelerate UAS integration into the National Airspace System; CNO was there. IPP concluded, and the BEYOND follow-on launched in 2020 with one of the primary goals being scalable and safe BVLOS operations, and CNO is front and center there too.
After a tour of the facility and amenities enabling consequential testing, the CNO’s effort and investments have paid off. I’ve been to a few test sites and military ranges during my career, and I will say that I was impressed with the progressive and holistic roadmap driving the build-out. The CNO roadmap includes validating some of the issues we’ve heard before but with added benefits to a community that wants to preserve the land’s natural state and bring societal benefits and ongoing economic opportunity to the people.
The Daisy Ranch is close to Stringtown, Oklahoma, and about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the DFW Multiplex. Or, about an hour and fifteen minutes by flying car when the North Texas Corridor opens up.
For more information about the CNO and its Advanced Technology initiatives –
The Choctaw Unmanned Test Facility is a testing and development site for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) located in southeastern Oklahoma, USA. The facility offers a variety of services to support the development and testing of UAS, including airspace access, ground control stations, and data analysis. The facility is designed to provide a safe and secure environment for testing UAS. Various organizations use it, including government agencies, academic institutions, and private companies.