Women and Drones and Drone360 recently announced the 9 most influential women in the drone/UAS industry, winners of the 2017 Women To Watch in the UAS initiative.
Tuesday, August 29th was the date that the 2017 Women To Watch in UAS honourees were announced by Women and Drones and Drone 360 Magazine.
Women to Watch in the UAS Industry is promoted by the Women and Drones organization and Drone360 magazine. This initiative aims to raise the profile of women doing great work in the drone industry and to encourage more women to embrace UAS technology by supporting a group that remains underrepresented thus far.
Those considered for the honours included trailblazers, innovators, mentors, and business leaders in the drone and UAS industry with 110 nominations being received from seven countries worldwide.
Our Skytango co-Founder Susan Talbot was on the judging panel.
The nine women selected for these honours have made astonishing strides in areas ranging from mapping to racing, education to entertainment. Inspiring women to get involved is the prime objective of Women and Drones. It’s no wonder the industry is growing so steadily with more and more female influencers getting on board to share their ideas.
Now that the dust has settled and we have all gotten busy with other things, we thought it was worth reminding you of the honourees and their extraordinary work. They fall under 9 different categories: Champion, Business, Education, Emerging, Entertainment & Culture, Global Trailblazer, Humanitarian, Influencer and Technology
The nine women honoured for the ‘Women To Watch in UAS’ are:
Mary Wohnrade (President/Owner of Wohnrade Civil Engineers) – Champion
Mary is heavily involved in the UAS industry in Colorado. She has developed a proprietary workflow to incorporate UAS and engineering while working on other ways to expand their possibilities. She is extremely passionate about everything UAS so watch this space!
Natalie Cheung (UAV project manager, Intel) – Entertainment & Culture
Holly is appealing to the next generation of drone users with Flybrix, a crash-friendly, rebuildable drone kit made from LEGO bricks. Launched in 2016, Kasun raised $1.7million in funding in just 45 days. Go Flybrix! AndChristmas is coming.
Gretchen West (Director at the Commercial Drone Alliance & Co-Founder of Women of Commercial Drones) – Influencer
Karen Joyce (Co-Founder of She Flies, Senior Lecturer in James Cook University) – Education
Karen co-founded She Flies, a drone training academy whose mission is to engage more girls and women with science and technology through the world of drones. She Flies hopes to expand their camps and educational programs beyond Australia very soon!
Catherine Ball (Co-Founder of World of Drones Congress & She Flies) – Global Trailblazer
Catherine is a start-up specialist working hard to build bridges, convene the UAS community, and advance innovative solutions in the UAS environment. The World Drone Congress, which debuted in Brisbane this August and at which our CEO Steven Flynn attended as a speaker, is the first major drone event to focus on the Asia-Pacific region. She Flies, which Catherine also cofounded, works to bring UAS and STEM learning to girls and women.
Through her tenacity and her sheer love of flying, Lexie has become a high profile racer and is working to raise the profile of drone racing. Dubbed “The First Lady of FPV in Poland” after a TV interview about drone technology, she travels the world to race, and actively encourages others to explore the sport.
Helena Samsioe (Founder and CEO of GLOBHE) – Humanitarian
As the boss of a humanitarian drone services company, Helena is leveraging drone capabilities to solve global problems, in particular, public health. She has worked on a UNICEF initiative to develop a humanitarian air corridor to deliver medical supplies in Malawi, and collaborates with other organizations to help heal through UAS tech.
Leah LaSalla (Technical Founder and CEO at Astral AR) – Technology
Intrigued with the combination of technologies that can deliver this experience, Leah started patenting and envisioning. She plans to apply this technology to wide-area search-and-rescue, disaster management, environmental remediation, public safety, and other drones-for-good activities. An added bonus: five of her company’s eight executives are women.
The judging panel was made up of three drone industry experts:
Wendy Erikson – Host of Women & Drones Podcast & Emmy award winning journalist & Part-107 certified pilot.
Sally French – The Drone Girl blog, named top 4 women shaping the drone industry by Forture magazine.
Susan Talbot – Skytango Co-Founder & COO & Emmy award winner with 25 years experience in film and TV production.
Congratulations to all involved and good luck with upcoming projects. You are incredible role models for our daughters (and sons!).
Looking at the increase in the number of drone fines charged against illegal behavior by aviation authorities over the world, I see an emerging trend: more and more authorities are starting to prosecute unlawful drone operations.
While this is good news, many in the industry – as well as myself – feel that the authorities have been slow in enforcing. Why is that?
Well, most of the focus of the regulators to date has been on defining the legal framework of this new industry. How can you enforce if you don’t have a clear set of rules in place first?
Drones represent a revolutionary technology which is booming and being adopted across several verticals with new uses discovered almost every day. While the technology is ready and progresses at an amazing pace, regulators are chasing rather than anticipating this changing industry
The problem was (and still is), setting the rules isn’t an easy task.
Even in countries where considerable efforts have been made so far in building a legal framework for safely integrating drones into airspace, regulators had to conciliate two different interests – sometimes conflicting: promoting safety and compliance and supporting the needs of the fast-growing drone industry.
Another factor complicating the regulatory efforts is that increased drone use raises several issues from a legal perspective.
Operating a drone involves different areas of law: privacy law, tort law, insurance law, civil aviation regulations, in particular, safety for people and manned aircraft. On top of that, privacy is a trending topic in the past few months.
The complexity of this task increases in countries where multiple authorities have input and control over some of the legal aspects related to hobbyist and commercial flying.
For example, in the U.S.,a confusing crossover of federal, state and local regulations – the so-called patchwork quilt – is negatively impacting the industry’s development and the capacity of the authorities to focus on enforcement, as a recent research by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College highlights. One of their key insights was that in several cases local drone laws contravene the FAA’s drone rules, resulting in legal conflicts.
Another problem the aviation authorities have been struggling to deal with is the lack of resources specifically dedicated to managing drone registrations, complaints and reports of illegal or reckless operations.
Despite these difficulties, during the last couple of years, several countries managed to put a drone regulatory framework in place, and are switching their attention from setting the rules to enforcing them.
Moreover, drone regulation is not the concern of drone operators only. Their clients are requiring compliance as well to protect their own brands.
Content buyers have begun to understand that drone content must be acquired legally – like any other type of content such as music – if they don’t want to face the risks associated with illegal operations.
In some countries, regulators are enforcing on the buyers’ side too. For example, in the US, if you hire a drone operatorwho doesn’t hold a Part 107 allowing commercial operations, you could be facing federal charges as well.
“Given that more than a million drones have been sold in the U.S., the fact that only two dozen fines have been levied is surprising and likely reflects the FAA’s lack of resources, rather than a lack of desire.”
said Craig Thompson, a Dallas-based aerial photographer, when asked about this data by drone regulation expert Jonathan Rupprecht who agreed and added:
“As time goes on, we can expect to see many more of these enforcement actions to be more fully prosecuted.”
It’s interesting to note that even where enforcement efforts have been put in place, FAA’s focus up to 2016 has been on punishing reckless behaviours, rather than illegal commercial operations, as the 2016 Motherboard analysis of the 24 prosecutions found out.
Lawyer Loretta Alkalay, who was in charge of the FAA’s legal operations for the eastern region for more than 20 years, has her opinion on why the FAA didn’t prosecute illegal commercial drone operations much until 2016:
“I think it’s pretty obvious the FAA doesn’t think it can win a case on this whole commercial issue, which is why they haven’t really pushed it.”
Let’s check a few significant drone fines in the U.S.
SkyPan – $200,000
This is the largest of all drone fines ever issued by the FAA to date. The initially proposed fine in October 2015 to SkyPan International, Inc., of Chicago, amounted to an impressive $1.9 million for conducting 43 illegal drone flights in congested airspace over Chicago and New York City between 2012 and 2014.
SkyPan was further accused of operating 65 aircraft without proper communication tools and without receiving an airworthiness certificate and registration.
The company eventually settled with the FAA in January 2017 for $200,000.
Besides the $200,000 civil penalty the company also agreed to pay an additional $150,000 if it violates federal aviation regulations again in the next year, and $150,000 more if it fails to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement.
Mical Caterina – $55,000
What drone pilot Caterina considered a hobby has landed him in trouble with the FAA, which in 2016 levied $55,000 in fines against him for violating five aviation regulations.
The FAA claims Caterina flew his drone for commercial use at an event in August 2015, though the Minnesota man has never charged anyone for his aerial photography and contends he’s only honing his skills.
“If you’re a recreational or hobby flyer and don’t know where the divider is between commercial and recreational activity, you’re likely to engage in neither if you know the FAA can come after you after the fact. Since the FAA has failed to provide a clear and adequate definition of what these entail, the risk is real and costly.”
said Jason Snead, a FAA policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.
Xizmo Media Productions – $5,000
XizmoMedia, a New York video production company, was hired by Fordham University to shoot footage of its 2015 commencement ceremony.
His videos on YouTube showed views from heights of at least 100 meters of Premier League, Champions League and Championship football matches. Other videos showed views of Big Ben from close range, the Queen Victoria Memorial next to Buckingham Palace, HMS Belfast at its mooring on the Thames and the Shard, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, all accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack.
Richard was fined £1,125 in October 2015 for illegally flying his drone over Hyde Park without permission during a shoot for a promotional video. The drone flew in controlled airspaces without consent from the Civil Aviation Authority. He was also charged for flying the drone 10 metres away from traffic and pedestrians.
Mark Spencer – £300
On 9 November 2013, staff at Alton Towers Resort observed a quadcopter flying over the X Sector of the resort. Mark later posted video clips on YouTube which showed that he had launched the quadcopter some way from the resort, beyond visual line of sight.
Australian drone laws are established by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Drone regulation for both recreational and commercial use are extensively explained on their website. The CASA has started to prosecute illegal behavior of drone pilots seriously in the last few months.
TV presenter Sylvia Jeffreys and her journalist partner Peter Stefanovic thought it would be a good idea to ask one of their friends to catch images of them popping champagne at their wedding using a drone.
Their friend now faces a $900 AUD fine for “hazardous flying at and near guests” after the drone footage uploaded on Instagram got CASA’s attention. CASA’s director, Shane Carmody, made no apology for the fine.
“The rules protect people, property and aircraft from drones,” Mr Carmody said.
“While each individual breach was not major in itself, the number of breaches has caused me concern”,
said the CASA investigator.
Each of his uploaded clips could have been charged between $850 and $8,000 AUD. The $850 fine was large enough to scare the flights out of this pilot as the drone in question quickly appeared for sale online.
Since the legislation went into effect in 2012, around 30 legal cases involving drones have given way to criminal punishment by the French Aviation Administration.
Almost all of the offenders were slapped with small drone fines, but one person earned a one-year suspended prison sentence. In this case, he had flown a civilian drone dangerously close to a helicopter.
Tristan Redman – €1,000
British reporter Tristan Redman was charged a €1,000 drone fine in February 2015 by Paris Court for flying a drone several times over central Paris. The journalist, who was compiling a piece for Al-Jazeera news, also had his drone confiscated.
The drone was flown above the city center (which is forbidden by current Netherlands drone regulation), at night, in a CTR zone (Maastricht has a busy regional airport), in close proximity to the 12,000 people attending the concert, and without a permit.
The amount of the fine was not divulged but the Dutch newspaper De Limburgerestimates it around €8,000, the largest fine for illegal drone operations given by the Netherlands authorities to date.
Drones are being used increasingly for emergency services, but how can emergency services leverage and safely deploy such technology?
This week Skytango hosts a special guest post by Anna Jackman, Lecturer at Royal Holloway University, on the reasons why drones are increasingly being employed as tools by emergency service responders.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, as the platforms are more commonly known, are the technology of the moment.
Drones are increasingly being employed in a growing range of hobbyist, commercial, and civilian roles, with their potential domestic applications considered “as diverse as the platforms themselves”.
Furthermore, in a recent report, professional services giant Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC), proposed that the global market for the commercial applications of drones, spanning: infrastructure, transport, insurance, media, telecommunication, agriculture and mining industries, could be valued at over $127 billion by 2020.
Lastly, drones are increasingly being enrolled in a range of civilian applications. Referring to those applications which are neither commercial nor recreational, drones have been employed as tools for humanitarian, disaster, and emergency service response.
The latter will be the focus of this piece.
DJI’s report on lifesaving drone operations
In profiling the ways in which drones have been employed as tools to both “save and protect human life” in emergency situations to-date, leading drone manufacturer DJIthis yearreleased a report entitled ‘Lives Saved: A Survey of Drones in Action’.
Opening with the assertion that drones allow first responders to
“accomplish tasks faster, more efficiently, at a lower cost, and in many cases more safely than in the past,”
the report reviews 18 incidents in which drones were deployed by emergency services professionals or members of the public in assistance of such operations.
Together, these actions were associated with saving 59 lives.
Drawing upon the results of 60 call-outs in which the drone was deployed (those spanning: missing persons, fire, possible suicide, crowd safety, bomb threats, fuel and/or chemical spillages, fishing vessels adrift, animal rescue, and light aircraft crashes), the research concluded that whilst often not designed explicitly for such roles, drones have been used to:
The Skybound Rescuer Project, then, has stepped up – seeking to provide resources and action plans to get SAR drones airborne. In highlighting the importance of this goal, The Skybound Rescuer team released this video, demonstrating their vision of the drone as a rescue tool.
Running their first course on 6th April 2017 at Popham Airfield in Hampshire, I was lucky enough to be in attendance.
Bringing together participants from UK Fire and Rescue, Search and Rescue, and the Police, this training course was billed as “a one-day workshop for managers and tacticians to gain an understanding of this rapidly emerging new technology “.
It aimed at equipping participants with an understanding of how to evaluate or plan for the purchase of a small drone and the associated equipment, what questions to ask manufacturers ahead of purchase or lease, and what training and regulatory requirements are applicable therein.
The course was a fast-paced and intensive foray through the contemporary civilian drone landscape, covering: terminology, drone categorisation, tailored capability reviews, a technical overview of payload features and capabilities, regulatory requirements, best practice and risk mitigation, factors impacting and limiting operations, and key questions for practitioners to pose to manufacturers ahead of purchasing or leasing a drone.
As pictured, the course also included a live-flying demonstration, allowing participants to see the drone in action, as well as understanding the necessary steps prior to becoming airborne.
As such, there remains an ongoing tension between the drone as both, simultaneously, an operational resource and a potentially recklessly or maliciously-employed commercially-available device.
In an environment in which the drone can be viewed negatively then, it remains particularly important for emergency services seeking to leverage and safely deploy such technology to adhere to and challenge the limits of relevant regulation, develop and implement best practice protocol, conduct risk assessment and mitigation, clearly demarcate their platforms and operational sites, and engage with the community and public more widely in showcasing this potentially lifesaving technology.
Dr Anna Jackman, the author of the above article, is a Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research has involved fieldwork with a range of drone users, regulators, and industry practitioners. Anna is interested in understanding both how and why different operational communities deploy drones, as well as the mechanisms through which the platforms are governed and sold more widely. She can be contacted via Twitter @ahjackman.
I’ve been flying a drone commercially since 2013. It was a heavy lift Cinestar and we flew Alexas, BlackMagic cameras, 5D’s, Gh4’s, and any other box we could strap to our Movi gimbal. At the time, the equipment, peripherals, licenses and insurance were a huge financial commitment. From the beginning, we struggled with other drone operators who weren’t licensed or insured and had less overhead as a result, quoting on jobs at half the standard day rate. It was difficult to compete and incredibly frustrating that nobody seemed to be doing anything about it.
To this day you can go to nearly any pilot forum and read their rantings (rightly so) of how hard it is to compete with illegal operators… always searching for the proper enforcement tool to prosecute them and protect the industry.
In my opinion, it’s not only about illegal operators but also about illegal operations. On more than one occasion I have been tempted to break the rules at the request of a client in order to get paid for my day’s work – so let’s be honest – even licensed operators can flaunt regulation and limits and put their insurance and their client at risk. So everyone has been searching for the right ‘stick’ to beat back this multifaceted problem.
I don’t think the ‘stick’ is the way to go. What we need is a ‘carrot’ approach. Steven Flynn, Skytango CEO
I’ve worked in film and television for 30 years, and I’ve spent a lot of my time in edit suites making sure music, photos, location releases and talent releases were always in order before a show went to air, or I’d have the legal team on my back. So after a career of risk mitigation (for want of a better description) I never understood why, as a drone pilot, clients would expect me to rock up in the streets of Dublin City Center and launch my heavy lift drone without permissions from the local land authority as well as having ATC clearance.
It seemed obvious to me that if a broadcaster or video client would care about having the rights to use a music track or a stock photo in their piece for fear of litigation, they would care if the drone footage they were using was legally acquired too – right?
Well, they do now! Partly because they are more educated around drone use and partly because of changing laws around privacy and data protection. So – buyer beware! It is as important for you to think about the legality of the drone operation as it is for the pilot to be aware. It won’t be long before authorities chase after the demand to corral the supply.
Last year we approached several large stock libraries highlighting a problem we saw coming down the tracks and while they concurred that it would eventually be an issue – none were willing to leap into that space of certified drone footage, as it seemed a slow train, laden with uncertain regulation and lack of enforcement.
Pond5 were the first to acknowledge the need for certified aerial footage, amid rumblings of drone output being audited by authorities and the buyers of illegally acquired content facing fines (monitoring the demand to control the supply), they called us back and said they had begun to see a change in their customers’ needs. They wanted to offer aerial footage they knew was legally acquired (in other words that the pilot followed all the rules), and were willing to sell at a higher premium for that assurance. Why? Well, we’re back to my old edit suite friend – risk mitigation! They partnered with DJI and took the step of promoting footage supplied by Part107 pilots.
The end user needs to be protected, especially if said end-user has deep corporate pockets if you catch my drift. No longer is it enough to fly your drone anytime, anywhere and sell those stunning aerials to anyone who’ll buy them or post them on social media channels (in many cases with illegal music)… you also want to prove that they were legally acquired.
I’ve traveled the world in the last 14 months speaking at drone conferences and events and everywhere I’ve listened to the same story from angry pilots who are still competing with illegal operators pushing rates down and making it hard to earn a living doing a highly skilled job in a regulated space.
‘DRM’, or ‘Digital Rights Management’ (the licensing of music, movies and images for broadcast across multiple channels) is needed in the drone asset space and it is what Skytango has been working toward since our inception. We’re not there yet, but we’re moving that way.
Incentives or ‘carrots’, like insurance breaks and hardware discounts is a step in the right direction. We have always believed that the best way to advance this industry is to offer incentives – where everyone benefits, rather than regulation and policing alone.
So, slowly I am seeing a sea change. Broadcasters and content buyers alike are becoming more and more educated about the process and complexity of flying drones. They are beginning to ask the right questions and are starting to see the inherent risks in using content that wasn’t legally obtained. Technology is advancing so fast that safety concerns around flying these machines are being addressed on a constant basis.
The bigger issue today is around Data Protection and Privacy. The approach of GDPR in Europe will make audit trails a necessity in this industry and I have no doubt the rest of the world will follow suit.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us and stayed with us on this journey. We are here for the long haul and look forward to working with you in the future.
Steven Flynn Licensed Drone Pilot, Skytango Founder & CEO
Steve Flynn is a multiple Emmy Award-winning Director of Photography, Director and Editor. He has worked with many major broadcast companies including PBS, CBS, HGTV, Discovery, BBC, RTE and even spent time working with Prince at Paisley Park. He has been a licensed drone pilot since 2013 and is the Founder and CEO of Skytango