2023 Emerging Aviation Technologies Awards

The Emerging Aviation Technologies Awards recognize individuals and companies focused on driving the industry forward through innovation, collaboration, and leadership.

Innovation Award

United States

AURA will deliver an FAA-compliant nationwide network utilizing licensed aviation spectrum to accelerate advanced levels of autonomy in the controlled national airspace.

AURA (which stands for Advanced Ultra Reliable Aviation) Network Systems is on a mission to deliver a highly reliable, secure network purpose-built to support the UAS industry’s safety critical Command and Control voice and data communications. AURA’s communications solutions use unique, FCC-licensed aviation spectrum to accelerate the integration of advanced levels of autonomy in the National Airspace System. Its vision is to empower the aerospace industry’s pioneering technology solutions that will ultimately improve accessibility and safety, drive economic expansion, and further environmental sustainability – while transforming the concept of aviation for crewed and uncrewed aircraft. The company’s technology is key to unlocking the full potential of remotely piloted Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) UAS operations at scale.

Drones For Good Award



The Globhe platform is a leading curated marketplace connecting 8000+ carefully vetted local drone operators with organizations in need of accurate and actionable drone data from anywhere in the world.​

Order drone data effortlessly and manage it all in one place. Automated ordering and customized frequency. Manage your order through a few clicks, selecting the location(s), the recurrence of the mission, and what data deliverables you are looking for. The platform handles the rest. Access the plenitude of data formats we deliver, both standard and specialized formats, for any drone data application area. We also work with third-party platforms and specialists for rarer formats and individual processing.

Community Impact Award

Dr. LaQuata Sumter



Dr. La’Quata Sumter is a technology enthusiast and educator passionate about teaching about technology, drones, coding, web design, and engineering. Hailing from the small town of Red Top, SC and now residing in Albany, GA, as a STEM/STEAM philanthropist, she is dedicated to encouraging careers and education in these fields for the next generation.

With over 15 years of experience in teaching technology, La’Quata holds a PhD in Learning Technologies & is an Engineering Professor. She is also the CEO and Founder of Focusing On Me, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization that focuses on supporting organizations in their goals for STEM excellence. STEAM thru Drones is one of her current projects focusing on designing and delivering educational programs that cater to various audiences, from students to professionals. These programs cover topics such as drone operation, safety, regulations, aerial technology advancements, and more. Favorite Quote: Technology can become the “wings” that will allow the educational world to fly farther and faster than ever before—if we will allow it. – Jenny Arledge

Girl Dad of the Year

Clint Harper


Clint Harper is driven by the unfathomable inspiration that he draws from his four daughters, he is committed to shaping a world of equal opportunities and universal respect. His daughters enlighten his worldview, revealing both the beauty and challenges before us. As a proud Indigenous voice in the AAM sphere, he carries his family-rooted inspiration into a space craving balance and diversity. Melding ecological wisdom with technological innovation, his work seeks to integrate Indigenous perspectives into an industry often steeped in a technology-first narrative. Through this holistic approach, he believes AAM can achieve genuine community integration—creating a balanced future that honors both technological advances and our shared human aspirations.

With 24 years of aviation experience that encompasses infrastructure and operations, Clint offesr a dynamic skill set to the emerging field of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM). While a career in the U.S. Air Force provided the foundational expertise, it is a passion for community development that inspired him to earn a Master of City & Metropolitan Planning degree, complemented by a graduate certificate in Urban Design. This educational journey allowed him to explore innovative concepts in community-centric aviation planning. Inspired by the transformative potential of AAM, he sees it not as a technological sideshow but as an integral component of community ecosystems. The key is integration; through thoughtful collaboration, AAM should complement—not replace—existing transportation options.

Favorite Quote: “Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.” – Tatanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull)

Advocacy Excellence Award

Kenji Sugahara & Vic Moss


Drone Service Providers

Drone Service Providers goal is to create a positive environment for drone service providers by advocating for reasonable regulation through positive advocacy and increasing the professionalism throughout our industry by providing educational resources and promoting a culture of safety. 

Kenji Sugahara A graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Oregon School of Law, Kenji is an attorney and the CEO and President of DSPA. In May, he was appointed by the Governor of Oregon to serve as the Director for the Oregon Department of Aviation. He is chief pilot and one of the co-founders of A-Cam Aerials. He has been in the industry for over ten years and has experience flying both single and dual operations for major brand names such as Ford, ABC, and Disney. Kenji is one of the most knowledgeable drone policy experts in the world, having played a critical roles in the FAA Remote ID and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee as well as the Beyond Visual Line of Sight Aviation Rulemaking Committee. Kenji was appointed to the Advanced Aviation Advisory Committee, formerly the Drone Advisory Committee, in January, 2021 as a Citizen UAS Operator where he has served on a number of Task Groups as well as serving as chair for Task Group 15, Community Engagement: Lessons Learned Recommendations.

Vic Moss is the COO and Vice-President of DSPA. A commercial photographer, he has owned Moss Photography since 1988, and has been offering drone services since 2014. Vic is a nationally recognized voice for drone safety and an advocate for reasonable drone regulation. On social media, he serves as the administrator for the largest UAS specific legal forum, the UAV Law News & Discussion Group, and one of the largest commercial UAS pilot forums. Vic also serves as the Director of Legislative Affairs for UAS Colorado where he worked with numerous municipalities to help create reasonable drone regulations. He is one of two drone pilots pilots who assisted the Colorado legislature in drafting HB 18-1314, making it a state offense to use a drone to interfere with a public safety operations. HB 18-1314 passed unanimously in both houses of the Colorado Legislature. Vic works with the FAA as one of five FAA Safety Team Drone Pros for the Denver FSDO, encompassing all of Colorado and Wyoming. Vic was also appointed to the Drone Advisory Committee in January, 2021 as a Citizen UAS Operator.

Humanitarian Award

Queen Ndlouv

South Africa

QP Drone Tech

Ms. Queen Ndlovu CEO and Founder of QP Drone Tech, MD of South Africa Flying Lbs, Drone Authour and a multiples award winning CEO . She is an international Published Drone author and currently studying for a PHD degree with Wits Business School. QP Drone Tech in partnership with SAFL is the first entity in South Africa to host a Drone Conference themed: Incorporating Drones and Robotics into Disaster Management. We have partnered with various UN agencies such as UNICEF-South Africa. We have featured in more 10 media houses in South Africa. Ms Ndlovu is currently studying for a PHD degree within the mining space and the socio-economic impact it has.

Impact Award



African Drone and Data Academy

The African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) is a Centre of excellence that will dually equip young people in Malawi and the African region with necessary 21st-century skills while strengthening the drone and data ecosystem for more effective humanitarian and development response. The ADDA course, developed by the international project lead Virginia Tech, allows young people to learn how to construct and pilot drones, and to integrate them into a supply chain system. It also puts an emphasis on aerial land surveying and the analysis of drone acquired imagery data enhancing data driven programming to support e.g. precision agriculture. The curriculum follows UNICEF’s ‘Drones and Data for Good’ vision, focusing on the potential of technology to deliver positive results for every child.

To date, ADDA has trained over 1,154 youth from over 40 African countries.   Drones have been utilized for a wide range of different applications – from delivering medical commodities to collecting aerial imagery for predictive analytics. The ADDA offers a world-class curriculum, which was recently endorsed by the Global Association of Air Traffic Management organizations, CANSO, as the global gold standard in remote pilot license training. that prepares young people for competitive careers in the green economy: 60% of the graduates of the core curriculum are girls.

From a recent survey, 74% agree that being part of the ADDA diverse family has helped them gain new opportunities and grow their careers. 76% agree that they have better access to professional opportunities after ADDA. 79% of graduates are employed, 8% pursuing postgraduate studies, 7% looking for work, and 6% are entrepreneurs.
ADDA is poised to scale on the continent (currently growing to Niger and Ethiopia, South Africa) and potentially beyond (Asia and the Caribbean).

Advanced Air Mobility Institute Awards

Fresh Face

Lenica Morales Valenzuela



Lenica Morales Valenzuela is an international professional that has focused her career on the implementation of technology to address issues of access and equity in emerging economies. This focus on international development and the start of her career took her to The Wicks Group (TWG), a boutique consulting and law firm focused on aviation-related matters. During her time at TWG, Lenica served as a management consultant to foreign CAAs to prepare for ICAO USOAP and ICVM audits and FAA IASA audits. Years later, Lenica joined Zipline International as a Director of Global Aviation Regulatory Affairs where she is one of the leaders responsible for obtaining initial aviation regulatory approvals and authorizations for Zipline.

Unsung Hero

Douglas Spotted Eagle


Sundance Media Group

Douglas Spotted Eagle is the VP of Sales/Marketing at KukerRanken. Authoring several books and DVDs, he also serves as an advisor for aerial imaging, software manufacturers and broadcasters. Skydiving since 2005 and instructing UAS since 2010, Douglas is an accomplished aerial photographer who thrives in the adrenaline-filled world of aerial imaging. Appointed as a Safety and Training Advisor in the aviation world, he is a risk management/mitigation subject matter expert, receiving the Ches Judy Award.

Douglas is a frequent speaker and consults on UAs cinematography, commercial and infrastructural UAV applications, risk management, night UAS flight, aerial security systems, and 107 training to ensure pilots clearly understand industry best practices.


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