Category Archives: Drone Girl Profiles

Meet the woman whose project uses drones to study El Nino’s impact on California

Earlier this week we told you about the Nature Conservancy’s Phones and Drones volunteer project. Now, meet one of the women behind the project.

As El Nino hits the West Coast, it’s a prime time for scientists to use the weather patterns as a crystal ball for future climate change. Tides are higher, and there are more storms. The Nature Conservancy’s Sarah Newkirk is spearheading a project that looks at the coast line using images from drones, shot by “citizen scientists” — essentially anyone with a drone.

For drone operators interested in volunteering with the project, visit this site.

Sarah Newkirk

Drone Girl: Why did this project come about?

SN: I direct the California Coastal Project at the Nature Conservancy of California, and our job is to  makes sure we still have natural shorelines, but we have a land development threat. Our communities are growing, but there is sea level rise, so coastal habitats are getting squeezed out of existence.

DG: So what’s your role?

SN: We’re working to help communities and decision makers make wise decisions about using natural resources rather than sea walls.  Sometimes that means restoring wetlands, getting infrastructure off the coast. It also means understanding how sea level rise and climate driven coastal change impact how we go about this. It’s a conservation problem in 4 dimensions — latitude, longigtue, altitude and time. It’s not about our coastline today, but tomorrow.

DG: What’s the project you are doing now with drones? Continue reading Meet the woman whose project uses drones to study El Nino’s impact on California

Meet the Hawaiian woman who makes surf videos with a drone

Pake Salmon owns a Hawaii destination wedding company, but her hobby is drones. Based out of Makahu, Oahu, a well-known surfing hot spot, Salmon has found a niche photographing surfers with a drone. Here’s how she creates her stunning shots”

DG: How has the mainstream arrival of drones changed surf photography?

PS: Helicopters would come in for big waves. Now you can just send drones in and take care of that shot.

You can definitely get a closer perspective to the surfer. It’s these nice tracking shots you can get doing surfing. You can get a lot more creative with the people. You can stay low to the water and track them as they catch the wave.

Shoreline-0094DG: What do you fly?

PS: I started with the Phantom Vision 2. It didn’t come out of the box ready to fly the way drones do now, and I lost it in the ocean last year. That prompted me to get the Phantom 3 Professional.

DG: You lost it in the ocean? Continue reading Meet the Hawaiian woman who makes surf videos with a drone

Land surveying with drones: meet Heller Gregory

unnamedThe next in our series of Drone Girl profiles is with Heller Gregory, thepresident and chief pilot of GrandView Services (named after her grade school in Southern California), which provides aerial data for mapping, inspection, monitoring and maintenance.

What’s your business all about?

My husband has a soil engineering business in Walnut Creek, where he does landslide repair and grading. I had a pilot’s license. He thought it might be good to survey land with a drone. I mostly work on projects for his business, often where he repairs landslides in people’s backyards.  I use 3D photogrammetry software to do the rendering and then monitor the photos for movement. Every couple months or so as they’re repairing it, I’ll conduct a flight and make sure there’s no movement. That offers a great view — there’s no other way of doing it.

What software and hardware do you use?

I’m using both Pix4D and ReCap 360 from Autodesk. As far as gear, I just have an IRIS+. I’m collecting the data with a GoPro, which is all I need. I don’t need the big expensive drone.unnamed

How did you get into drones?

I pretty much got into it because it seemed like a viable industry that’s coming up. I’ve always been pretty tech savvy and on top of the new technology that’s going on.

I’m an empty nester, and this fell together perfectly. With my boys out of the house, I was looking for a job. So I just created my own job.  Continue reading Land surveying with drones: meet Heller Gregory

Meet the patent attorney who made the drone that won ‘Shark Tank’ happen

Courtesy photo

The next in our series of Drone Girl profiles is with Mel Coombes, a patent attorney at  Lee & Hayes.

Got an idea for a new drone technology? Mel Coombes wants to hear it.

Coombes is a patent attorney at Lee & Hayes who has worked on drone patents including XCraft’s X PlusOne and Phone Drone, the two drones that impressed judges on Shark Tank and landed a $1.5 million deal with all 5 Shark Tank investors, including Mark Cuban.

Coombes’ expertise is rooted in the military, where she served as a former Navy pilot. Coombes was a flight and academic instructor for the U.S. Navy and was responsible for managing training and professional development of hundreds of students, and has received Navy Commendation and Humanitarian Assistance Medals for tsunami relief missions in Sumatra. She was also awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for actions that resulted in saving an aircraft.

Drone Girl: What are you working on right now?

Mel Coombes: xCraft has been consuming my life all week actually; they’re prepping their first shipment to go out this week. xCraft came to us (Lee & Hayes) just one year ago and now they’ve come so far, and even been on Shark Tank. This is all in the span of one year.

SHARK TANK - "Episode 705" - In one of the most exciting moments of "Shark Tank" history, the ante is upped when the Sharks start to bid OVER the asking price for one product and the million dollar offers start to fly. But will greed burst the bubble before a deal is set? Another pitch prompts a brutal brush-off from an irate Shark. Two parents from Salem, Massachusetts pitch their novel idea for managing Trick-or-Treaters' excess candy with a children's book and gifts; two men from Pacific Palisades, California tout their premium beef jerky made from filet mignon which has the Sharks swooning over the taste and the price point; a woman from Sand City, California pitches a full-length mirror designed to build self-esteem, and two men from Sandpoint, Idaho claim they have redefined drones with inventions that fly up to 60 mph and as high as 10,000 feet. In addition, in a follow-up on the NYC-based Bantam Bagels, the company in which Lori Grenier invested last season, we see how their unique stuffed bagels fare when given a national stage, on "Shark Tank," FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23 (9:00-10:01 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Beth Dubber) JD CLARIDGE, CHARLES MANNING (XCRAFT)
JD Claridge and Charles Manning demo XCraft on the set of Shark Tank. (ABC/Beth Dubber)

What are the parallels you see in coming from a military background vs. the commercial and consumer drone market?

It’s kind of interesting. When I started in patent law we didn’t have a great deal of aerospace clients here, so I had very limited exposure right away. With xCraft, it’s been a lot of fun to be able to draw the parallels with my experience in the military and understanding airspace and aviation language and personalities.

Going through the user manual for X Plus One, I was just like, ‘oh! This is so awesome.’ It’s like a NATEC manual in the Navy. They’ve written it almost the same. It’s so neat that they’ve thought of all of these things and spelled it out fort the customer, to make it as simple as possible for the customer.

What’s the wildest patent you’ve ever seen in the drone industry?

I don’t think any idea is really truly crazy. Technology is moving so fast. People would have thought 10 years ago that the things we have today in drones would never happen. As long as an expert in the field can see that would happen — I have an aerospace background — it’s easy to see if something will work aerodynamically or will not. As long as it will work aerodynamically or adds a feature to the device to make it work, then the sky is the limit. Continue reading Meet the patent attorney who made the drone that won ‘Shark Tank’ happen

Drone Girl profiles: Eileen Shipley, the woman who is mapping the Wild West with a drone

The next in our series of Drone Girl profiles is with Eileen Shibley, the founder of Monarch Inc.

Monarch just launched a project to aerially survey and 3D map the 19th-century mining town of Bodie, California, and original California Gold Rush town that was the vibrant gem of the Wild West and now is kept in a state of ‘arrested decay.’ Monarch used high precision UAVs to help preserve data about the historic town, using the company’s custom-built drone and 3D-printed gimbal.

Courtesy Monarch Inc.

Drone Girl: How did you get into drones?

Eileen Shibley: 5 or 7 years before I retired from defense, I was selected to run the unmanned systems division at the navy’s premiere manufacturing site for drone integration in defense. We worked with every size drone – from teeny ones to the Predator. That’s when I became aware that I had devoted my career to defense, but when I retired I truly wanted to make a difference. I thought, I know what these things are capable of.  I know these things can make a huge difference win the way we do things.

DG: And then?

ES: I led the California delegation to try to get California named as (one of the six drone) test sites. I was barely retired and I was asked to lead this delegation. I thought I should give something back since I’ve gotten so much from this community. When we weren’t selected, I figured, what am I going to do now?

DG: So now you’re mapping the old western town of Bodie.

ES: Bodie Stegosaurus Park — it was one of those thriving places in the 1880s. It became a huge thriving metropolis in no time at all. But now it’s old, it’s decaying. The state has made it a state park and they’re trying to preserve it. They put a request in to the FAA that Monarch be allowed to take our drone to Bodie and map it for them.

Courtesy Monarch Inc.
Courtesy Monarch Inc.

DG: So how did they find you? Continue reading Drone Girl profiles: Eileen Shipley, the woman who is mapping the Wild West with a drone

Drone Girl Profiles: Meet Natalie Welch, the female star of “Rotor DR1”

Here’s a “Drone Girl” with a different type of story. She stars in “Rotor DR1,” a film that portrays drones in a way that could really change the perspective on drones as a regular part of society. While she doesn’t fly drones herself, her acting has brought new life and new perspective to the industry.

Courtesy of Natalie Welch, Rotor DR1
Courtesy of Natalie Welch, Rotor DR1

17-year-old Natalie Welch is the leading female actress in “Rotor DR1,” the post-apocalyptic film following the lives of two teenagers who struggle to survive in a world mostly wiped out after a viral outbreak, but who survive, in part, because of a drone that leads them to an answer that could save the world.

Welch plays the role of Maya, a charismatic teenager who lost her parents to the virus. She plays a role of an aggressive, independent and even selfish young woman, while also serving as a strong, steady character throughout the film.

How did you get involved in the production of “Rotor DR1”?

Natalie: The process was a little different than most audition processes. My agent sent me a notification about the audition. As the team got more into it, they were debating on a few different directions to go with my character. They wanted to let the audience build the character I ended up playing, so they narrowed the search down to two girls.

Courtesy of Natalie Welch
Courtesy of Natalie Welch

Yeah, I had heard the big focus on this film was making it “community-collaborated.” Thousands of online community members developed the online series and weighed in on everything from wardrobe to storyline. (Read more on that here.)

Natalie: We both went down and filmed the same scene with Christian (the character’s lead, who plays Kitch). They had the community decide which one of us would play this character. My audition tape was broadcast to the world. It’s definitely different.

Before you got involved with “Rotor DR1,” what was your impression of drones? Continue reading Drone Girl Profiles: Meet Natalie Welch, the female star of “Rotor DR1”

Meet Abby Speicher, CEO of DARTdrones

DART Drones Promo Code: Use “dronegirl10” to save 10% on your next class. 

Women make up just 14.6% of executive officers nationwide. In Silicon Valley, women account for just 9% of executive positions in information technology, according to American Progress. But here’s one young woman who is not only a CEO, but making huge strides in drone education. Meet Abby Speicher, CEO of DARTdrones.

abby Speicher dart drones

Drone Girl: So from what I know about you, you seem to be a serial entrepreneur.

Abby Speicher: My family is very entrepreneurial; my dad is an entrepreneurship professor. I ended up starting a social enterprise where we made purses in Ghana; I started that when I was 17 and worked on it through college, where I realized that I loved running a company and learned how to pitch a product.

DG: Where do you go to school?

AS: I went to Babson College’s MBA in Entrepreneurship program.

DG: So what changed there?

AS: I was desperately looking for a new type of company to start. That’s when I met my cofounder (Chris Costello), who was at the Army National Guard for 30 years. He was in charge of missions using Raven drones. That’s when the two of us entered a business competition together.

DG: What were you pitching?

AS: We were pitching a general drone services company. At first we thought we would do all types of services involving drones — selling, repairs. We had a plan, but we didn’t have a business.

DG: So what happened?

AS: Well, I had never actually flown a drone until the pitch competition. I ordered a Phantom and I flew it in front of the judges; it was my second time ever flying it. It got out of control and went over the judges. Papers were flying everywhere. My dad was in the audience and tried to catch it. It was terrible. It almost crashed.

DG: Oh dear. Continue reading Meet Abby Speicher, CEO of DARTdrones

Meet Isabelle Nyroth: the world’s drone educator

_MG_7038I’ve crossed paths with Isabelle Nyroth a few separate times in the world of drones. Now it’s time to finally share a Q&A!

Nyroth has been integral to the education side of the drone community. She’s Swedish and is currently working for unmanned Experts in Colorado.

Drone Girl: How did you get into drones?
Isabelle Nyroth: It started a very long time ago. I got into drones because of my father mainly. My father took me out to the RC field as a child. I’ve always been around airplanes and RC helicopters. My dad was actually an engineer building and designing drones so as a kid, instead of drawing ponies during free time at school, I was drawing UAVs. I always felt like this is where I want to be. IT’s a revolutionary industry for technology and there’s so much room to grow, so I just decided this is what I’m going to pursue my career in.

DG: So what do you do now with drones?
IN: I do everything with drones! Everything from teaching other people to fly them — we teach courses with Unmanned Experts every month. We also do consultancy where people come to us and ask us, ‘is this possible? Can we do this?’ We also have services where we do missions for them, whether it’s mapping or precision ag. Everything is possible. We have a whole fleet of different copters and we can pretty much do any mission.

DG: So what do you fly?
IN: For training purposes, the Phantom is a great copter to practice on. It’s like the ABC of learning to fly a drone. We also have industrial spec drones like this $125,000 Aeryon SkyRanger.It’s performance is top notch. It never lets us down, and it obviously has a flight time of 50 minutes. There aren’t a lot of copters that can fly for that long. So that’s typically what we use when it’s down to business, when we actually have to get something done and it has to be done right. Whereas, the Phantom is good, but it’s not always the best. Continue reading Meet Isabelle Nyroth: the world’s drone educator