Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Public Service Company of Oklahoma Complete BVLOS Power Line Infrastructure Inspection with Drones


Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight Linear Infrastructure Inspection

DURANT, Okla. (November 4, 2019) — The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), in collaboration with Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) and AiRXOS (part of GE Aviation), have conducted transmission power line inspections and advanced operations using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS or drones) on PSO's Pittsburg-Valliant 345-kilovolt transmission line at CNO-owned property in rural southeastern Oklahoma. Drone use is being evaluated in field tests for use in routine inspections, and for emergency response and storm damage assessment of transmission lines.

This collaborative effort between CNO, the Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) and AirXOS is part of the FAA UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP). The CNO site is one of nine IPP sites selected by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in May 2018.

Recent testing and demonstration with Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations focused on safe, automated flight using visual observers and data capture. Another series of planned test flights will incorporate Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) testing, without any visual observer operations, in late 2019 or early 2020. In late 2018, Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) field tests were also conducted at this location.

"The successful completion of this night-time operation gave us a great opportunity to work with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and leverage a new technology," said Peggy Simmons, president and chief operating officer, PSO. "Using innovative approaches like this helps ensure continued efficiency and reliability of the energy grid, which ultimately benefits our customers."

PSO and AEP Transmission are operating organizations of American Electric Power Company, the largest builder, owner, and operator of transmission lines in the U.S. The team will continue to evaluate the feasibility of extending these operations into other parts of Oklahoma, as well as the other ten states where American Electric Power operates.

"The Choctaw Nation continues to be excited to work with the FAA, along with PSO, AEP Transmission, and AirXOS, as we begin to foster innovation and utilize a new technology in today's world," said James Grimsley, Executive Director of Advanced Technology Initiatives of Choctaw Nation's Division of Strategic Development.

"Creating safe, scalable, and repeatable transmission and distribution drone inspections are vital to enterprises like PSO who need better and faster data, greater efficiencies, and lowered risk from their inspections," said Ken Stewart, CEO, AiRXOS. "Choctaw Nation and PSO have worked well together in this effort – proving that advanced operations like BVLOS, and at night, will deliver significant value for future transmission and distribution inspection operations. We're proud to support this work with our Air Mobility Platform, and are looking forward to extending operations that will continue to set the stage for the future of T&D inspections."

Future missions for the CNO IPP team include using advanced drone operations (including BVLOS) for agricultural applications, public safety and infrastructure inspections, safe operations over people, and additional night operations over tribal property. The CNO IPP team also plans to identify the necessary safety infrastructure to enable operations that are more advanced.

About American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP)

American Electric Power, based in Columbus, Ohio, focuses on building a smarter energy infrastructure and delivering new technologies and custom energy solutions to our customers. AEP's approximately 18,000 employees operate and maintain the nation's largest electricity transmission system and nearly 220,000 miles of distribution lines, to efficiently deliver safe, reliable power to nearly 5.4 million regulated customers in 11 states. AEP also is one of the nation's largest electricity producers, with approximately 32,000 megawatts of diverse generating capacity, including more than 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy. AEP's family of companies includes utilities AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power (in Virginia and West Virginia), AEP Appalachian Power (in Tennessee), Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (in Arkansas, Louisiana, east Texas and the Texas Panhandle). AEP also owns AEP Transmission, AEP Energy, AEP Energy Partners, AEP OnSite Partners, and AEP Renewables, which provide innovative competitive energy solutions nationwide.

About PSO, an AEP company

PSO, a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), is an electric utility company serving more than 554,000 customers accounts across 30-thousand square miles in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma. Based in Tulsa, PSO has nearly 3,800 megawatts of primarily natural gas-fired generating capacity, 22-thousand miles of distribution lines, more than 37-hundred miles of transmission lines, and is one of the largest distributors of wind energy in the state. News releases and other information about PSO are at www.PSOklahoma.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PSOklahoma.

About the UAS IPP Program

The Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) is an opportunity for state, local, and tribal governments 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 UAS 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

The program is expected to foster a meaningful dialogue on the balance between local and national interests related to UAS integration, and provide actionable information to the USDOT on expanded and universal integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.

About the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Choctaw Nation is the third largest Indian Nation in the United States, with close to 200,000 tribal members and 9,000 employees. The first tribe over the Trail of Tears, the historic boundaries are in the southeast corner of Oklahoma. The Choctaw Nation's vision, "Living out the Chahta Spirit of faith, family and culture", is evident as it continues to focus on providing opportunities for growth and prosperity. For more information about the Choctaw Nation, its culture, heritage, and traditions, please visit www.choctawnation.com.

About AiRXOS

AiRXOS, part of GE Aviation, is digitizing today's airspace, infusing the next generation of air traffic management technology and services with world-class aviation expertise and execution, and shaping a new era of transportation through global, commercial Unmanned Aircraft solutions. Learn more at www.airxos.io.

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For more information about the Choctaw Nation UAS IPP program, please visit cnoaa.com or contact Kristina Humenesky, Public Relations Director – Choctaw Nation at khumenesky@choctawnation.com or 580-380-5967.