Category Archives: Q&A

We need gender equality in the drone industry

Here’s an excerpt of a Q&A interview I did with The Best Drone Info. Read the entire interview on their site here!

Sally’s website starts her bio with this:  “If you spot a drone in the sky and the pilot on the ground stands tall at 4’10”, is wearing a sundress and has a cup of coffee nearby, then you’ve probably found Drone Girl.”, so we begin here with our interview questions.

Q. Are you really 4’10” or is that only if you are standing on your tip-toes? 

That’s not entirely true; if you include the drone, I can be as tall as 1,000 feet!

Q. At InterDrone you will be speaking about Women and Drones (aka gender equality)  which is a very important. In your opinion, are enough women getting involved in this industry?

I’m not sure if “are enough women getting involved” is the right question. I don’t think it has to be a quota. It doesn’t matter to me if 1,000,000 women in the world are involved with drones or if just 1 woman is. If it only happens that 1 woman in the world cares about drones, then that’s enough for me.

What really matters is are 100% of those women getting treated with respect. For the most part, the industry has been really open and accepting of women. However, there is a small percentage that is not. Look at marketing campaigns, “booth babes”, the executive leadership at drone companies (which for the majority of drone companies is 80-100% male), and even just the word unmanned (which is male-centric in itself). Those factors all contribute to pushing women out of the drone industry, when maybe they would have otherwise been a part of it.

I’ve seen drone companies market sales on their sites with language like “this drone is now 20% off, which will surely make your wife happy.” While on the surface I don’t really find this offensive, it implies that men buy and fly drones, and women don’t. That’s not true! But until the rest of the industry stops perceiving women as some sort of anomaly, then there’s still work to do.

The only quota I’m working to reach is gaining respect for 100% of the women in this industry.

Q. Sally, how do we create gender equality and advance the field for women?

Read that answer, plus much more of the Q&A here!

THAT DRONE IS SPYING ON ME: Drones and Society

I had the pleasure of speaking with Nicolas Goller, a computer science student at the University of Utah, about drones for the school’s site, Drones and Society. Below is an excerpt of that interview. Read the whole thing here.

Nicolas Goller: Hello, please introduce yourself!

Sally French: I work professionally full-time for a newspaper. Actually before I got that job, I had my own drone blog. I had this interest of being a photojournalist and using drones to take photos. So I sort of started thinking that since the regulations are really unclear, I could establish myself as a thought leader in drones and journalism. This is why I started the blog The Drone Girl.

Goller: So you started it primarily because of the ambiguity with the current regulations?

French: Yeah, a lot is still unknown. So much is ambiguous, so I figured that by having this drone blog, I could explore these things and show on one hand how drones can be used for good. Often, people think of drones as something that is strictly used for war. I think a lot of people ignore the consumer side of drones. They fail to distinguish that on one side of the world drones are killing people and on the other side drones are helping find lost hikers! It should not have a negative connotation one hundred percent of the time. I wanted to explore the privacy and safety issues as well.

Goller: What of surveillance and privacy?

French: Just as large telephoto lenses challenged the privacy and surveillance regulations when they were becoming more widespread, so do drones challenge the current regulations. I think it needs to be approached the same way that people have always approached handling the same photojournalism laws. Yes you can stand on a sidewalk, but there is that ethical concern. People have the implied right to privacy. I really think that people need to take a step back and view a drone as another tool and address the laws the same way they would with any other tool – this one just happens to be in the air.

Goller: So drones are basically just heightening the current issues by approaching from a different angle?

French: Yeah, exactly. People were so scared when telephoto lenses came out. Now your mom probably has one and she probably bought it at Target. A lot of people get really scared that drones might be spying on them. Going back to what this blog is for, the drones that people have are the size of a small child. You can’t miss them!

Goller: What do you think of the FAA and the current situation with regulation in the national airspace?

French: With the Parker case, the FAA said they would fine him $10,000. So he fought them in the court and won, but just recently the ruling was overturned. So it’s very unclear. He doesn’t have to pay. Then he does have to pay. What of my blog? Is it commercial? I do think there has to be some amount of regulation. There has to be a happy medium between the people who want to ban drones completely and those on the other end who don’t want any regulations.

Goller: Do the benefits of domestic drones outweigh their potential problems?

French: Yeah, but at the same time I don’t want to say we should be carefree. There definitely are problems. I think a drone crashed into a geyser in Yellowstone. There are lots of details still to be worked out. But there are many benefits to using drones. I spoke to this one man who is trying to track whale DNA. This is a big challenge; you can’t simply walk up to a whale and pull off some hair. The way they do this is by gathering snot. They use drones to fly over the blowhole and collect snot! The possibilities are endless. Continue reading THAT DRONE IS SPYING ON ME: Drones and Society

What is the deal with the drone cage?

You’ve seen them before. It’s a bird, it’s a plane…nope, it’s a zoo. What are these cages that people are flying drones in?

photo 1We asked drone fan Andrew Amato of Drone Life for his best guess during a press event for DJI’s Inspire 1 (there was in fact a drone cage present).

“I guess it’s safety first,” he said. “Sense and avoid is the next thing they have to work on, so until we have, we’ll have these.”

We also asked DJI spokesman Michael Perry for the official answer.

“There’s this psychological concern when we’re out of the tents,” Perry said. “When we’re flying at events, either people would be standing back, or we can put a cage and people will get closer to them. It’s a better experience and saves space. We’ve made something that is easily transportable and easy to set up.”

Is it to keep the drones in or the people out?

“Probably both,” Amato said. “Did you see the drink menu (at the DJI Inspire 1 event)?”

The drink menu includes items named after drones, including the Phantom. They’re all sparkly, fruity cocktails – who knew a Phantom would taste like tequila with some watermelon and lime juice?

photo 2 copy

“Too many Phantoms,” Amato said, “and you don’t want to be crashing the actual Phantom.”

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Ask Drone Girl: What flight simulator software should I use?

Got a question for Drone Girl? Email it to me!

Question: I was wondering if you can recommend or point me in the right direction of a flight simulator software and joystick that I may use on my computer as a stepping stone into the drone world.

Answer: That’s a great question, and to be honest – I’ve never used a flight simulator software! In my eyes, drones are an awesome tool because they have a multitude of entry points based on your pre-existing skill level. If you don’t have any drone experience, you can pick up a toy drone to practice on. If you have RC experience, pick up a Phantom. The graduate to a more expensive, bigger drone that suits your needs.

However, I won’t leave you hanging. Thus, I reached out to Arland Whitfield, President and Founder of The SkyWorks Project. (Check it out!)

Here’s what he told me:

You can actually use the real remote to control a flight sim on your computer. I highly recommend getting AeroSim and purchasing a Spektrum DX8. That way you can use the actual remote you are going to use to fly the real drone. The AeroSim software comes with a cord that will allow you to plug your DX8 directly into your computer! It really doesn’t get better than that. The software allows you to fly the DJI Flamewheel as well as bigger drones such as the Cinestar.

So there you go – and thanks for the additional advice, Arland! Happy flying!

Ask Drone Girl: What’s a good first drone for video?

This is the first question in a new series called Ask Drone Girl. Got a question for Drone Girl? Email it to me!

*This question has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Hi Sally,

I feel overwhelmed.  I am just beginning to learn about Aerial Photography/Videography with drones. I want to make sure I buy the right one that will suit my needs. (Quick back story- I am going to buy my first mini-quad (hudsan x4) on Friday, so that I can start learning to fly.  And in a couple of weeks, I want to buy my first Quadcopter.  I participate in an organization that will have a retreat in August.  They always do a group photo and promotional videos and what better way to do it this year than with shots from the air.  For now I want a drone that will grow with me.  Any advice?


Thanks for the email! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, because there are so many drones out there! A lot of what I can recommend depends on what your goals are with your drone.
First, I would start by looking at the Drone Configurator. This will help narrow down products within your price range, ability and intended use. Secondly, I think it’s great that you want to practice on a mini-quad. It’s much better when that flies into a big tree and gets stuck rather than a quad in the $1000 range!

Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: What’s a good first drone for video?