The Osage Nation is transforming a former airpark into a space where budding drone pilots can go to hone their craft.
Acres of land along 36th Street North have been empty for years, and the runway is too short, even for use by small Cessnas, so drone pilots are training there - and that’s just the beginning of what we could see on the land.
It’s the perfect landscape for a real-life scenario. Tuesday, drones were tasked with finding a fake suspect who had ditched her car and ran from police.
Mason Goode is with the Osage Nation Police Department and joined fellow officers and firefighters from across the area.
"The boundaries are limitless," he said. “How did we do without these? You can send a drone in a building and clear a building without risking people. You can send it down ahead of a tactical team to know what is ahead of them.”
The Osage Nation saw this as a perfect opportunity and use for the land that is not feasible for traditional, smaller aircraft. After all, it’s only five miles outside of downtown Tulsa and out of the reach of certain restrictions from Tulsa International.
Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn said, "We are seeing that a lot of drone testing companies are having to go to very remote drone testing sites. Here is an opportunity to test very close to an urban area."
Gene Robinson's company, Drone Pilot Inc., is one of the first two groups to take advantage of the space. They teach drone proficiency in emergency settings.
"We don’t get to pick the time that we get to fly. It may not be the best day. It could be rainy, windy, smoky or very stressful," Robinson said.
The nation hopes to eventually build a full innovation park there.
"That will accommodate education, industry, light manufacturing and other activities that are very conducive to having an innovation zone and bringing much-needed jobs to this area,” Red Corn said.
Tuesday was the final training in the more than 100-hour-long course put on by Drone Pilots Inc., so they are ready to be put to use.