The Home of Aviation Innovation

Ernest Huffman, Aviation Planning and Education Program Manager, North Central Texas Council of Governments joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss why North Texas is the home of aviation innovation.

The conversation begins with Ernest sharing a story about how a high school teacher changed his life and put him on the course of becoming a pilot, which lead to a career in aviation.

Looking at [the aviation industry] from a holistic, macro perspective and my early background in doing some economist work, I think of aviation as a competitive industry, a means for folks to get out of their current situations in urban communities.

– Ernest Huffman

Putting his words into action, Ernest worked with Tuskegee NEXT to inspire at-risk youth to explore career opportunities in the aviation industry.

I had my pilot’s license before I had my driver’s license.

– Ernest Huffman

Shifting the conversation to North Texas, Grayson asks Ernest about the North Central Texas Council of Governments NASA partnership to study the potential of drone technology and integrate it into future transportation plans.

The North Texas region is emerging as the home of aviation innovation due to the economic strength and the business climate in the region.

We like the growth. We are going to keep attracting these great businesses here.

– Ernest Huffman

In February, a Bell autonomous drone successfully delivered a package at Hillwood’s AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone out of the line of sight which requires significant regulatory approval.

It is a monumental achievement. To do it in the current regulatory environment that we have for those types of flights is an achievement.

– Ernest Huffman

Looking to the future, there are plans for a more significant flight to take place in 2023. Taking it one step further, Grayson asks Ernest if there are plans to connect the DFW airport to the Dallas Cowboys football stadium with an eVTOL service. This type of experience would enhance the fan experience on GameDay for fans who fly into Dallas for the game.

That is definitely a use case that we are exploring heavily.

– Ernest Huffman

To enable this future, there has to be a public trust. The public has to trust that the eVTOL aircraft will get them there on time and safely. NCTOG is working on this issue through their Unmanned Aircraft Systems Safety and Integration Initiative.

Wrapping up the conversation, Ernest shares his vision of how advanced air mobility will be rolled out in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

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Recorded on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.