This is the first in a series of Q&As with other “Drone Girls” — in other words, incredible women who are doing great things in the world with drones.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Drone Girl: Why did you start the Amelia Dronehart RC Copter Group?
Rhianna Lakin: I used to work for a DJI dealer; I worked there prior to the launch of the Phantom series, when it was just the S800, flight controllers and Flame Wheel series. When they launched the Phantom, I noticed I had a few female customers. Then I started noticing a few more ladies popping up. I thought, if I have a few customers, then I thought, ‘well gosh there have to be more out there.
DG: What was your intent with the group?
RL: I knew where the drone industry was going to go. I wanted to show a softer side of it because the media would not show the softer side…no matter what you were doing with drones.
DG: So you created an Internet community for women?
RL: My goal was to start the group and bring women together so they could ask questions. I just got really tired of the forums this caveman mentality.
DG: Do you find it hard for a woman interested in, but new to drones, to find a place where she can fit in and ask questions about her drone?
RL: Absolutely. Our women’s group, we don’t have bashing over questions, we don’t have that intimidation factor. It’s more supportive group. I just got really tired of the forums — this caveman mentality. I am still on other forums but certainly, the Droneharts is something different. My goal was to bring women together of all ages and skillets.
DG: How did you get into drones?
RL: I spent the last 14-15 years between here and Asia, specifically Indonesia. While I was there, I experienced several natural disasters. I was there for the 2004 tsunami. I participated in a lot of relief efforts because I speak the language. I was there during a flash flood due to illegal logging which wiped out the village I lived in. I lost a lot of friends. There was a big search and rescue mission to find people under the logs. I knew the people that ran the company out of Portland and I thought, ‘if they could use this for aerial video why can’t they use this for search and rescue?’ Of course, I didn’t realize that was already being done.
DG: Wow, you are super accomplished in what you’ve already been doing with drones, and you’ve been doing it for years.
RL: I use them for good, search and rescue, humanitarian relief, agriculture.
DG: How did you come up with the idea of the name Droneharts?
RL: I realized we could call them anything else, (such as UAVs or UASs) but the media is still going to refer to them as a drones. If I do a search and rescue mission and I call it a drone, then suddenly that sets a positive connotation with the word “drone.”
DG: So what’s in your future?
RL: In May or June I’ll go back to Indonesia and hopefully be able to expose the deforestation and atrocities that are happening there.
DG: And what about the future of the Droneharts?
RL: It’s been so exciting to have all of you ladies jump on board. 2015 is going to be a big deal for those of us in the industry who want to make a difference. There need to be more women out there to bring awareness. My goal is to get exposure for any women that want that exposure and want to make a name for themselves. That’s another goal of mine, to promote the women within the group.
DG: How will you do that?
RL: One of my big goals is my attempt is to have a website built that will have bios of any women that want there bio there and links to all of you. There’s currently only a closed Facebook group for us. My goal is to get bios for all of you that want it and put it on the website so we can get support from outsiders and be noticed for the achievements of what you’re doing. I’m trying to collaborate between all of us, and many of us are doing really great things. Whoever wants to be involved can. A lot of us see this as a new industry. It’s one we can make a name in, make change in.
Are you, or do you know, a stellar Drone Girl I should profile? Contact me here.