And one of the company’s looking to make a big difference in the drone industry is Kittyhawk, a San Francisco-based software startup.
The startup’s product strategy and product management teams are led by Sonal Baid, an aerospace engineer who has been with the company for about a year. She spoke with The Drone Girl about her predictions for the industry, the biggest surprises when it comes to drones and how startup culture is driving the industry forward.
Drone Girl: How did your background in aerospace engineering get you to where you are today in the drone industry?
There have been 1,624 mass shootings in the U.S. in the past 1,870 days. Just this month, more than a dozen people died in a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
That’s according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, which found that there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – nine out of every 10 days on average.
But drones could change that.
Leah La Salla, cofounder of Astral AR, sees a future where drones will be used to detect guns and prevent them from being used.
Lana Axelrod is the Chief Strategy Officer at Drone Pilot Ground School, an online training course designed to help you study for the Part 107 test. All drone pilots who wish to operate commercially must have a Remote Pilot’s License via the Federal Aviation Administration, and passing the test is one of the steps toward getting that license. I personally used Drone Pilot Ground School to help me study for my test — and I passed on the first time! If you’re interested in trying it out yourself, use DroneGirl50 to get $50 off.
Lana has a wildly impressive resume, which includes an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in Finance and Accounting from New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Drone Girl: What is an average day in the life like for you as Chief Strategy Officer at Drone Pilot Ground School?
Lana Axelrod: My average day starts by getting my 1.5-year-old up and ready for pre-school. This process requires some of the same skills as running a business — negotiation, prioritization and maintaining perspective.
Megan Gaffney is the vice president of marketing at AirVūz, a Minneapolis-based website for watching and sharing drone videos of all types, whether it is scenic landscapes or videos from drone racing and FPV freestyle pilots.
Drone Girl: Considering you work at AirVūz, I imagine you watch a LOT of drone videos. What qualities do the best videos have? What are some things you frequently see in drone videos that you don’t like?
Megan Gaffney: Everyone here at AirVūz watches A LOT of drone videos. It is fundamental to our community and one of our core values. We have a human engine behind the site and watching aerial videos is also one of the most fun parts of our job!
The best videos, camera and first person view, are created by makers who understand some of the foundations of cinematography. It is quickly becoming more than just being a good drone pilot, you also have to be a good filmmaker. The exception to this rule of thumb, of course, is seeing aerial footage from areas of the globe we don’t often see from the air.
My first piece of advice for anyone creating a drone video is pay close attention to the opening of your drone video. Overly long intros or being too slow to get into a riveting piece of aerial content can kill even the best drone video.
DG: I agree! People on the Internet have short attention spans — myself included. So what drone is your favorite to fly?
MG: I really love flying the DJI Mavic. For its size and price, it is a awesome little portable drone and while I do have my Part 107, I admittedly watch more drone videos than I create.
Here’s the argument for how drones can help make that change.
Drones are egalitarian and accessible — you don’t need a degree to fly them, they can be purchased at a relatively low cost from Amazon, and they can be used in a variety of industry.
Yet there are still massive differences in the narrative of drones when it comes to men vs. women.
Drones aimed at children are gender-biased. They often end up in the “boy toys” section, and drones targeted at girls are marketed with things like Barbies. One of the world’s largest drone races is being held in one of the world’s most unfriendly countries toward women. And it’s not uncommon to see drone conferences where the speaker lineup is all-male.
But that’s about to change.
Thought leader, entrepreneur and drone expert Dr Catherine Ball gave a speech at this year’s TEDxMelbourne about how teaching girls about science and technology is important and is the critical gap to equality in not only how we view girls but how we think about ourselves as humanity.
Watch it below:
Ball is an author, founder, and ethics advocate working across global projects where robotics and new technology meet environmental protection. She is the co-founder of SheFlies, which hosts drone events in schools for children around the country of Australia (and SheFlies is expanding outside of Australia too!). She also created the World of Drones Congress in Australia.
24-year-old Lexie Janson is quickly becoming Europe’s FPV star. Originally from Gdynia, Poland, she’s traveling all over the continent, calling me from a trip to Ireland where she was preparing for Irish Drone Nationals. We discussed getting sponsorships, air traffic control and of course, drone racing. Read on!
Dr. Mozhdeh Shahbazi wants to make it easier for drones to fly — even in areas where GPS isn’t reliable — places like street canyons, indoors, and even forests.
Shahbazi received her BSc degree in civil/surveying engineering in 2009, her MSc degree in geomatics/photogrammetry engineering in 2011, and then moved on to doing PhD research focused on the development of drones for 3D modeling at the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada. She is currently an assistant professor of geomatics engineering at the University of Calgary in Canada.
Drone Girl: You’ve done incredible work based on enabling drones to know their environment without the use of GPS. What does that entail?
Dr. Mozhdeh Shahbazi: I’m working on different types of sensors for autonomous navigation – those based on vision and those not based on vision. The ones not based on vision I cannot discuss because they are confidential! But the parts based on vision are more exciting.
They include laser scanning, which is a type of active sensing. Measurements are done from a type of instrument which sends laser beams to objects and calculates its range from them.
Then there are visual sensors. Cameras don’t measure depth, so what I’m working on is multi-view stereo. In the case of a drone, we set cameras on all sides so we have a 360-degree cover. It’s important to shoot the front, back, side and ground. And because of bird attacks and to be aware of other aircrafts, it’s important to have a view pointing up too!
Blueye Robotics co-founder Christine Spiten loves the oceans. She lives on a boat, she’s traveled by boat across the Atlantic ocean, and she even is a 2007 Norwegian Champion in Sailing. Naturally, she’s behind a new underwater drone with the intent to explore the ocean.
The Norway-based robotics company Blueye today launched a drone called ‘The Pioneer’, which can go up to 150 meters down (that’s 8x the depth an average scuba diver can go).
I chatted with the company’s co-founder, 27-year-old Christine Spiten, to find out what the drone is all about.
Christine holds a M.Sc in Industrial Economics and Technology Management from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and Robotics from UFRJ in Rio, Brazil. She was also named one of Norway’s 50 most important female tech founders 2017.
Drone Girl: Most of us think of a flying robot when we hear the word drone, but it applies to underwater robots too sometimes! How is the Pioneer different or similar to what we’re used to?
Christine Spiten: The underwater drone is much like an aerial drone. You control it from your own smart device — tablet smartphone or computer. It’s like flying an aerial drone — but I think it’s even easier to ‘fly.’
The biggest difference between an underwater and an aerial drone is you get to see a part of the world that you’ve never been able to see before. You become a real explorer.
DG: What kind of background led you to the underwater drone industry?
CS: I had an internship for an oil company back in 2012, while I was still a student. We did a project on environmental monitoring subsea. We used huge, traditional ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles). They were complex and clunky. I was thinking about how other electronics are more available for regular consumers. Why isn’t there a smart version of these ROVs to allow regular people to become explorers? Continue reading Blueye’s Christine Spiten thinks underwater drones will save our oceans→