Category Archives: Drone Girl Profiles

YI Erida drone exec Ye Song “not afraid of competition”

Ye Song is the president and cofounder of YI Technology, which makes everything from action cameras that compete with the GoPro to home cameras to dash cameras.

And now, YI Technology is making the leap into aerial cameras with the launch of YI Erida, a carbon fiber drone that it claims can fly for up to 40 minutes at speeds of up to 75 mph. 

We caught up with cofounder Ye Song about her business philosophy:

Ye Song
Ye Song is the president and cofounder of YI Technology, maker of the YI Erida drone.

Drone Girl: What brought you into the drone community? Continue reading YI Erida drone exec Ye Song “not afraid of competition”

How Good Morning America’s Maria Stefanopoulos is using drones for TV news

Good Morning America’s Maria Stefanopoulos has had more wild adventures working in drones in the past couple years than many people might have in a lifetime. She has flown over (and through) everything from a volcano in Iceland, to a cave in Vietnam with DJI.

Stefanopoulos is a Production Manager at ABC News, Good Morning America, based in New York. She first got into drones about 18 months ago for GMA’s first drone-related shoot (in Iceland), and purchased her own drone shortly after that.

Here’s her story:

abc gma iceland
Courtesy Maria Stefanopoulos

DG: Let’s start by talking about the first shoot you did with a drone in Iceland. So originally, the plan was to have a drone flying around the studio, but then you decided to just go big and take it to the Arctic Circle. How did that all happen?

MS: February is a sweeps month, so for us TV people that means we like to up the ante. Our senior editorial staff approached me about an idea to have drones take over our studio for a “Game of Drones” series — Wiz by the weather wall, carry scripts to our anchors at the news desk, even drop off a cup of coffee to a correspondent on the set.

We were sold on this idea, until our Senior Producer came across Eric Cheng’s video where he flew a drone into an active volcano in Iceland. I remember the day my boss approached me about production managing this event. She said “Would you mind putting together a budget for another crazy idea? I’m sure it’ll never happen. A volcano. Iceland. Drones. LIVE.” I watched the YouTube video and thought – for so many reasons –  there’s no way this is going to happen…”

DG: But it happened! Continue reading How Good Morning America’s Maria Stefanopoulos is using drones for TV news

Meet 2DroneGals photographers Kim and Makalya

This week’s Drone Girl profile highlights a mother-daughter photography duo. Kim and Makalya Wheeler go by 2Drone_Gals on the internet, and in real life they can generally be found flying around the Space Coast of Florida capturing photos and videos.

Kim, the mother half of the duo, got into photography in high school via her cousin’s  Canon AE-1. Makayla, now 18, started shooting  with an Olympus C-740 and won her first photography contest at age 10 and at that age already had her photos published in an international nature magazine.

Drone Girl: You have photography backgrounds. How did drones enter your life?

Kim and Makalya: Makayla’s gift in the visual arts quickly transitioned into the video production realm when she began shooting horse chase sequences out on the trails with her iPod Nano and edited them to music. This led to shooting promotional videos, nature documentaries and short films. The interest in drones developed out of a need for epic aerial cinematography for these types of video projects. Makayla bought her first drone at age 15 when one of her projects won a national video contest. She sold the Grand Prize to purchase the drone, which was the original DJI Phantom 1.

DG: That means you got in on the drone craze ahead of the curve. How did you learn about drones? Continue reading Meet 2DroneGals photographers Kim and Makalya

Meet Loretta Alkalay, the drone lawyer

Loretta Alkalay

Meet Loretta Alkalay, a New York-based aviation attorney and professor.

She’s highly experienced in drones, having spent 30 years with the FAA and the past 7 years doing consulting work in international aviation. She studied at Cornell University and NYU. She is a renowned teacher who has taught in India, and is currently an adjunct professor at Vaughn College of Aeronautic Engineering, Aviation, and Technology in Queens, New York.

Drone Girl: Tell me about what you do in the drone industry.

Loretta Alklay: I was an aviation attorney for 30 years. That’s not particularly surprising. When people find out I fly drones, I have 5 Phantoms, AND I am a grandmother, people are surprised.

DG: Surprised? Why?

LA: The stereotypical image of someone flying a drone is not a woman, and it’s certainly not a grandmother.

The best compliment I ever got was when I was flying in Bicentennial Park (now Museum Park) in Miami. It’s right next to the port — the center of Miami. I was flying my drone and these two homeless men had been chatting to me. On the way out, one of the them turns to the other and says, “You’re never too old to learn something new.” I felt like I gave him hope.

DG: You studied law at New York University. Why did you decide to do specialize in aviation law? Continue reading Meet Loretta Alkalay, the drone lawyer

Kiteboarder Karlie Thoma uses drones too

Our latest Drone Girl profile is a little different and features someone whose profession has nothing to do with drones, yet they entered her life, which happens to be the life of a kiteboarder.

18-year-old kiteboarder Karlie Thoma recently worked with Salt Lake City-based production company Atomic City Films to film a short film about her kiteboarding.

The film was shot in Maui, Hawaii on the Autel Robotics X-Star Drone with 4K Camera. Here’s our interview:

Drone Girl: Usually I profile people who work with drones as operators, but your story is a little different. You worked with drones so they could film you! How did this whole project come about?

Karlie Thoma: I was approached by Rhett (Director at Atomic City Films) who saw my pictures on Instagram. He then contacted me to set up a time for us to meet and shortly after that we were having lunch discussing his idea of the shoot. I recommend some of my favorite spots to kiteboard. It was difficult to narrow the spots down. There were no fly zones because the beach was close to the airport. We ended up choosing a prime location on Maui’s north shore, Baby Beach.An aerial shot from an Autel Robotics drone featuring Kiteboarder Karlie Thoma in Maui. The picture is from Atomic City Film's short film, shot via an Autel Robotics drone.

DG: How many drones were up in the air each time?
KT: There were 2 drones. One of the drones actually hit my lines and the drone fell into the water. In-between breaks I went diving but did not find the drone.
DG: What was it like working with the drones?

Continue reading Kiteboarder Karlie Thoma uses drones too

Meet Drone Girl’s first-ever intern!

I’m so excited to announce that Drone Girl has its first-ever intern! Meet Vivien Nguyen, who will join the team this summer and who expects to work on a redesign of the site layout, designing new merchandise, and maybe some other projects coming soon!

Vivien caught my eye after successfully launching her own business back in 2013 (just after Drone Girl launched),  an Etsy shop for buttons and other crafty gifts. She’s also an excellent student, and has some diverse interests including Netflix, coffee and calculus.

DSC_0091Drone Girl: Where do you go to school?
Vivien Nguyen: I am a rising sophomore at UC Berkeley! Insert obligatory “Go Bears!”.
DG: What do you plan to major in?
VN: I’m an intended CS major but would also like to spend sometime studying art or architecture if possible.
DG: What is the one thing you would most like to see in the future regarding drones?

Continue reading Meet Drone Girl’s first-ever intern!

Meet Zoe, the world’s top female drone pilot

In Zoe Stumbaugh’s world, it’s drones pretty much 24/7. Even when she’s not racing (she is the U.S.’s top female drone racer, after all), she’s designing new propellers, working on her own racing drone, or flying for fun near her home in Santa Cruz, California.

After being bedridden in her early 20s, Zoe found a hobby — racing drones. Since then, it ballooned into her winning the first ever sanctioned FPV (First Person View) race in the U.S., and she is now working on 3D Freestyle flying. Plus, she developed the world’s smallest competition-level FPV Racing Drone, the Zat 109.

I had the joy of flying with Zoe in San Jose, where she taught me what goes into FPV racing, building drones and what’s new in drone racing.

Learning to FPV from grand master @zoefpv

A photo posted by Sally French (@sallyannfrench) on Mar 31, 2016 at 6:18pm PDT

Drone Girl: How did you get into FPV?

Zoe Stumbaugh: I was really, really sick. I had to go through a lot of different surgeries. I was bound to my bed for a good 2 years. I was depressed. My friend told me, ‘You need a new hobby.’ I went to the hobby shop. I found a micro drone. Then I got a larger one. I saw videos of people flying FPV on YouTube, and thought, ‘I need to do that.’

It took me 2-3 months from hearing about it to flying FPV, because I had to build it myself. I never soldered anything in my life. I had to teach myself to do that.

Then I started winning races.

DG: How would you describe FPV to someone who has never done it before?

ZS: FPV is like having an out of body experience that you get to control. I liken it to being a monk where you can have an elevated experience and get to leave your body. Continue reading Meet Zoe, the world’s top female drone pilot