Dear Drone Girl Readers,
Thank you. Thank you for 10 years of The Drone Girl. Thank you for your support, your knowledge-sharing, your generosity, your continued readership.
Tonight I am set to accept a trophy inducting me into the inaugural class of the Women in Emerging Aviation Technologies Hall of Fame. This award means so much to me, but it only comes because of you.
This year marks 10 years since I published my first blog post to The Drone Girl, which ran on June 27, 2013.
Most of you long-time readers know the story. In January 2013 — this exact week, 10 years ago — I walked in the door of the first college course I ever took on drones. It was offered through the journalism department at the University of Missouri, and we studied how drones could be used in journalism, such as documenting extreme weather events. Students flew homebuilt DJI drones, primarily the DJI Flame Wheel with a GoPro mounted to it. We covered news stories, like a local prairie fire. My job at the time was editing the footage.
Though, through what I can only guess is unconscious bias from the professor, none of the female students were offered the opportunity to fly drones, aside from a couple practice flights. Sure, I could have asked to continue practice, but I had a job to do — editing video footage. The male students go to practice more and fly the real flights.
When the class ended (and I graduated) in May 2013, my curiosity for drones didn’t stop. I moved to Southern California to take a reporting job at The Orange County Register, and I used graduation gift money to buy my own drone, the DJI Phantom. Finally, I could learn how to fly on my own drone, and practice as much as I wanted.
And with that, my blog called The Drone Girl was born. Initially, my blog was just to house my own videos and document my own flights as a sort of diary. The footage was never “good,” mostly just parks, hot air balloons, waterways and selfies.
But it’s rare that anyone is ever great at something at the beginning — it takes work to improve. And for me, the work showed in the form of persistence and consistency. Slowly, people started discovering my blog and asking questions — where they could fly, what drones they should buy, what was legal and wasn’t.
And with that, I realized there was a need for reliable, trustworthy drone information. What was a personal diary grew into a community-driven news source.
The whole community is what drives The Drone Girl every day, but it’s usually the women who stand out. Every breakthrough I’ve ever had is because of another woman going out of her way to help me.
Alex Paskulin, a then-technical writer at the now-defunct 3D Robotics, is one of the smartest people I know and taught me the inner workings of drones. Natalie Cheng and Chloe Canta, then-public relations representatives for Autel and Yuneec, respectively, gave me honest news and let me borrow drones for my initial reviews. Siggi Hindrichs, then an investor at Samsung Next, graciously sponsored 100% of my Drone Girl in-person meetups, such as this awesome event featuring the Intel Light Show Team.
Jessika Farrar taught me about hardware. Zooey Stumbaugh encouraged me to try FPV flying. Rhianna Lakin built a female drone community that introduced me to countless other consultants and mentors, including Loretta Alkalay and Desi Ekstein. Dyan Gibbens taught me a lot of things, but mostly the importance of TSA PreCheck.
Dr. Catherine Ball opened up a speaking opportunity for me in Australia, Janine Diana changed my life with an invitation to EAA AirVenture, and Jenny Mirkovic provided an intro for me into FPV video. Kara Murphy and Miriam McNabb have forged a similar path of writing about the industry, and have served as inspiration. Helen Greiner modeled the perfect example of working mom.
Vivien Nguyen built this sturdy website, and Carli Krueger came up with the darling logos. My sister, Holly French, edited many of these blog posts and served as a role model through her own career in software engineering.
I could go on and on; while there are so many women who are incredibly important to me, but I’ve listed ones who I think don’t get enough recognition and have gone out of their way to support me personally. But I’ll finish with Sharon Rossmark. Her leadership through Women and Drones has exploded in highlighting and connecting women. She’s an ambassador, a giver, a cheerleader.
And that leads me to tonight, where I’ll walk onto a stage and be named one of just a dozen women being named by the Women and Drones’ Women in Emerging Aviation Technologies Awards and inducted into their inaugural Hall of Fame class.
This award has my name on it, but it’s for you — that’s you, who is reading it. It’s certainly for the women I mentioned above, but it’s for all of you. I wouldn’t have nearly the drive and dedication if I didn’t see your comments back on my posts and tweets, or if I didn’t get your handshakes and hugs at real-life drone events.
This award wasn’t given to me because I’m the best at any one thing. There are brilliant pilots, engineers, researchers, educators, etc. out there. But one thing I am is committed. I haven’t stopped this website for 10 years, and I won’t stop, for as long as you’re still reading.
Thank you for 10 years. Thank you for the Hall of Fame recognition. You have changed my life. I hope that I have at least done something to help improve yours.
Happy flying and so much gratitude,