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Alumni Spotlight - Dan Sloat

The University of Oklahoma Price College of Business | June 2023 Newsletter

Q&A with Daniel Sloat, JD/MBA

Daniel Sloat - Alumni Spotlight

Job Title:  Founder & President

Employer: Advanced Air Mobility Institute

City and State: Boston, Mass.

Hometown: Wichita, Kan.

OU Degrees: M.A., Economics ‘13; FAA Pilot's License ‘13; MBA ‘19; J.D. ‘19

Dan Sloat embodies the essence of a modern-day Renaissance Man. From a young age, an entrepreneurial spirit has been an intrinsic part of his character. As a prior United States Air Force Captain, drone pilot, novice sommelier, stand-up comedian, English teacher, filmmaker, oil painter, horse wrangler, day sailor and humanitarian, Sloat embraces new challenges and champions multi-disciplinary innovations. 

Sloat's professional career has landed in Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), an emerging sector focused on ferrying individuals and goods above ground traffic and connecting urban cities, suburban regions, villages and small towns. This entails not just unscrewed aerial systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, but also electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs)[1], reminiscent of the futuristic flying cars seen in the popular animated sitcom “The Jetsons.” 

Price College recently spoke with Sloat to delve into this evolving industry and his role within it.

Can you tell us more about Advanced Air Mobility?

“It’s an exciting revolution in transportation. In many ways, it’s a global effort to bring together the right mix of stakeholders to safely and efficiently integrate new forms of aircraft. While some people might be quick to describe these vehicles as perhaps just electric helicopters, it's much more accurate to think about them in terms of drones that are now large enough and strong enough to carry human passengers.” 


“This mode of transportation will be safer than automobiles today. The price per passenger mile will become quite affordable for the average citizen. These aircraft are quieter, more sustainable and significantly faster, often at least four times faster than automobiles on a given route. 


What is your role within Advanced Air Mobility?

“I’m the Founder and President of The Advanced Air Mobility Institute. We are a 501(c)(3) dedicated to educating and advocating for the broadest public benefit through the AAM ecosystem globally. By that, we mean we are striving to ensure that this new industry is positioned such that the greatest number of persons can share in those benefits.”


“What we're often faced with when it comes to new technologies is that because investors are so eager to recoup their money with a premium, products and services are priced such that only the top 1% can afford them. It's our mission at The AAM Institute to make sure that we bear in mind the humanity of all this; that that's not lost along the way.” 


“I was very fortunate at the University of Oklahoma College of Law to take a concentration of courses in human rights law. Shoutout to Professor Evelyn Aswad, easily one of the most brilliant legal minds when it comes to the intersection of International Business and Human Rights and, in particular, this concept of multi-stakeholder initiatives. I found this fascinating because it was an effective means by which to positively influence multinational corporations through collective advocacy to hold themselves to higher standards beyond what would otherwise be permitted by local law.”


How did your education at Price College and The University of Oklahoma prepare you for this industry?

“I very much credit my education at OU for being able to identify this need in the market. My graduate work in Economics laid the groundwork for getting a better sense of the market factors, consumer behaviors and the opportunity costs involved. I also earned a private pilot license through the OU School of Aviation, which continues to inform my work in airspace management.


“With the MBA, I learned to think creatively about what is possible. How do we build an ecosystem and help move this start-up industry forward? And lastly, with the law degree, I think a lot of the value is in learning to think critically about what could go wrong.”


“There’s a bit of dichotomy between business and law. Together they are enormously beneficial because there is a balance. Law helps to rein in a bit of the unbridled enthusiasm of business strategy with the practical rules and boundaries within which to navigate. At the same time, business helps drive things forward in a way that someone with a standalone law degree may be too conservative in the sense that it's just safer not to ever try anything new.”


“It's been really exciting to see these different academic fields of study at OU come together because at the end of the day, AAM is a multi-disciplinary challenge, and we absolutely need multi-disciplinary solutions.”  


Can you share any advice for students interested in pursuing a career in Advanced Air Mobility or a related field?

“I'm glad you asked this because it's a perfect opportunity to encourage students. If you identify with our mission or you’d simply like to learn more, we absolutely welcome students or alums. We foster opportunities like internships and externships.”


“This industry is going to impact so many different facets of society, and we need experts in each of those facets. As President, I see it as my responsibility to identify opportunities for anyone to make meaningful contributions.”


“At The AAM Institute, we have three guiding principles: safety, dignity and security. If you identify with any of these, then do consider reaching out. These three guiding principles all center around this idea of protection: protecting people, their rights, and the systems we rely on.” 


What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for this industry over the next 5-10 years?

“One of the things that's interesting about human nature is that it's sometimes difficult for us to even imagine some of the capabilities we can achieve through our collective technical know-how. What we're finding with AAM is that community perception is a critical element. And that's perhaps a funny thing about what it means to be human in that things that are different are often quite scary for people. And we need a bit of time to come around and get used to something.”


“A necessary step before public acceptance would be public awareness. We must do a lot more work exposing people to these ideas and explaining what this technology is and how it can be beneficial. The term vertiports, the actual place from which these aircraft take off and land, is not in the dictionary yet. Public awareness includes getting these words into our shared language. We’re working on a public awareness campaign at The AAM Institute to get the word ‘vertiport’ to earn Word of the Year.


“We need more touch points so that the general population can become comfortable with this, especially as we look into the future. We’ll need to move from public awareness to public acceptance to public engagement when people start to clamor for ways to get involved. Ultimately, we need to achieve public trust. That’s how we make this something that is truly inclusive, affordable, safe and sustainable.”