Schiebel S-100 camcopter arctic

Austrian “camcopter” dronemaker Schiebel expands to US, with Gretchen West leading the charge

Austrian dronemaker Schiebel Aircraft this week announced its expansion into the U.S. with a new headquarters based in Fairfax, VA.

Gretchen West
Gretchen West

And leading the charge will be long-time industry influencer Gretchen West, who was appointed as the company’s new President and CEO in the United States.

Schiebel is known for its ultra-high-tech Camcopter S-100 drone, which is notable for its Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL).

The drone targets both military and civilian applications, and claims to require no prepared area nor supporting equipment to enable launch and recovery, and is able to be operated by day and by night (depending on rules, of course), under adverse weather conditions, and with a beyond line-of-sight capability out to 200 km / 108 nm, over land and sea. The drone is made of carbon fiber and titanium, capable of carrying a 75-pound payload up to 10 hours.

Schiebel’s camera copter has been used in a number of high-profile use cases including naval operations in the Arctic, trials with the Belgian Navy and winning a contract with the European Maritime Safety Agency.

West, who formerly spent 10 years at AUVSI as the group’s Executive Vice President before spending about a year leading regulatory affairs at DroneDeploy, most recently served as a senior director in the Global Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) practice group at law firm Hogan Lovells. There, she focused on drone policy initiatives and strategies for commercial drone market expansion, while simultaneously serving as CoExecutive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance. She has also represented the drone industry in front of Congress and other Federal Agencies, through providing testimony and briefings.

Schiebel Camcopter S-100

West has also been an advocate for promoting women within the drone industry, and her new position as CEO is notable given how few females work in the drone industry, but how few women work at CEOs in all industries.

The share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high of 6.4% in 2017, according to the Pew Research Center. The share fell to 4.8% in 2018.

You might think the numbers aren’t so stark in the drone industry, where the barriers to entry to becoming a drone pilot vs. a Fortune 500 CEO are much lower, but that’s not the case. Women make up only 5.8% of the total certificated remote pilots population, based on data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration and analyzed by Women and Drones.

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