Forbes: High Tech Choctaw Nation will bring Drone Deliveries to Rural Areas

CNO ground-based radar system

Choctaw Nation Photo

This ground-based radar system on the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Reservation facilitates advanced drone operations including beyond visual line of sight flights.

Advanced Technology Initiatives News

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), the third-largest Native American nation in the United States with more than 200,000 tribal members and 10,000-plus associates, has an oral tradition dating back over 13,000 years and a modern business mindset. It has transformed its 10,923 square mile reservation in the southeast corner of Oklahoma into a lucrative business focal point and innovative drone hub.

The CNO had a budget of $1.9 billion in 2020 and manages an array of businesses including 20 gaming sites, three resorts, restaurants, a multi-million-dollar printing company, travel plazas, and ranches and farms encompassing 65,000 acres and 2,100 head of cattle. This summer, a $600 million expansion project will position its casino in Durant to be one of the largest in the country.

The CNO has made also significant investments in emerging aviation technologies, with an emphasis on drones. The CNO’s drone journey began in 2016. Just a few years after the tribal government purchased 44,500+ acres of land in southeastern Oklahoma, it approached James Grimsley to explore creative ways to leverage the land, using advanced technology, for the good of the tribe. At the time, Grimsley was the Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma, an aerospace and mechanical engineer with deep ties to the tribe, having grown up within reservation lands. He spent the next year generating a series of game-changing studies and reports on the regulatory, market and business landscape for emerging aviation technologies. Grimsley ultimately left his academic position to become the tribe’s Executive Director of Advanced Technology Initiatives.

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This High Tech Tribe Will Bring Drone Deliveries To Rural Areas
By Dawn Zoldi
Aug 24, 2021

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 more than 212,000 tribal members and 12,000-plus associates. This ancient people has an oral tradition dating back over 13,000 years. The first tribe over the Trail of Tears, its historic reservation boundaries are in the southeast corner of Oklahoma, covering 10,923 square miles. 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


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