Chit Chat #2 : Sally French

Introduction:

Sally French represents girl power in the drone industry. She is a drone enthusiast , a public speaker and published journalist whose work has appeared on Wall Street Journal , BBC , Forbes and the Economist to name a few .

Check out her blog at http://thedronegirl.com/ and show some love .Let's get this started!

Some Questions to The Drone Girl:

What’s your favorite thing about drones? If you have a blog about them, then it means you actually like them very much. If so, why?

I'm struck by the use cases of drones beyond just photography. People are using drones for search and rescue missions, to inspect cell towers and oil pipelines, to help firefighters fight fires, and more. But there are also really clever use cases. Drones sound like bees, and elephants fear bees. So, in Africa, farmers are using drones to herd elephants away from their fields, which protects both the elephants and a farmer's crops. That's so awesome! People get so creative with them. I recently did a lecture for high school students and I asked them to think of their own ways to use drones in their daily lives. I was impressed with what they came up with. One of my favorites? A student in marching band said she thought a drone could help her band members analyze their formations out on the field.

The Drone Girl

Which, do you think, is the best drone for beginners? And why do you think that?

Start with something cheap. You ARE going to crash it, either in a pool, tree, roof, something. Don't start with an $1,000 drone. Start with a $30 drone so if you get it stuck in a tree, it's not a big deal. The cheaper the drone, typically the harder it is to control because it won't automatically hold its altitude, or doesn't hold steady in the wind. Mastering a cheaper drone will actually make you a great pilot, so when you graduate to something more expensive, it feels easy to fly.

What does it feel to be a girl in an industry/niche with an overwhelming male presence?

Absolutely I "feel" it. None of the sexism is particularly overt, but people express unconscious biases that make women feel like they don't belong.

I was actually just at an AMA field this weekend to fly drones. I walked up to the front desk to sign in and said, "I'm signing in to fly." The man at the desk said, "You don't look like you're here to fly." I was holding two boxes of drones, so I can only assume he meant that because, yes, I was the only woman there. I've also been told by people things like, "wow, you're beautiful AND smart. That's rare!" And I've been asked, "So, did your boyfriend teach you how to fly drones?" (Answer: no! I actually taught him how to fly drones!) Little things like that can exclude women and make them feel like they are different -- and keep women out of the industry.

The Drone Girl

How did you “fall in love” with drones? How did this love start?

I didn't know what a drone was until I was a senior in college and needed one credit to graduate. They were offering a "drone journalism" class, so I signed up. The first day we flew, I was hooked!

How did it feel to join the NBC4 Los Angeles’ Investigative Team?

Getting the call to join that team was one of the happiest days of my life! Working with NBC's Investigative Team meant working with some of the smartest, most clever people on the planet. They really trusted me with some neat projects, and going undercover was such an adrenaline rush. But we also really did stories that made a difference. One story was about a company that was scamming families out of rental properties, and they typically targeted non-English speaking, immigrant and lower class families. It was really awful that they were scamming money out of people who needed it most, but our investigation led to that company being shut-down. It's rewarding how journalism is able to do that.

Drone Girl

What’s your vision regarding the future of drones?

The possibilities are totally endless. Everyone is talking about delivery, and though that's a complicated feat given the number of moving parts -- safety, flight over people, collision avoidance, air traffic control, etc -- I can't wait for the day I regularly order items via drone.

But it's not all about delivery, as the mainstream media tends to think. I think we'll see more and more businesses using drones to make their current work safer, more efficient and cheaper. Drones will be the best to augment existing work like agriculture or data collection. We now need to educate people who are professionally trained in fields like farming, construction, etc. on how they can use drones. I live in San Francisco but regularly make the drive down to Southern California to visit family, and it's pretty much all farmland on the way down. My vision is that I'll see drones flying over the crops to monitor them or spray fertilizers. Or perhaps I'll see drones washing the windows of my 40-story office building. They can augment our lives for the better, so let's embrace them.

From your own point of view: How can someone go from beginner to pro when it comes to flying a drone? What are your best tips for people who are getting started?

Just fly! Don't give up. You are going to crash. If you're starting a business, you're going to see competition. The industry is quickly changing, so you'll have to stay up to date. It's hard! But if you're not failing, it just means you're not trying hard enough. Use your failures to make yourself better the next time around, and keep moving forward.

And just to finish: what’s your favorite drone? What’s the drone you love the most and why?

I've only recently gotten into FPV racing drones. I'm borrowing a Blade Nano QX racing drone at the moment, which is so much fun! It's a completely different experience from line of sight flying, which is what I am used to. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Phantom, because the first drone I ever bought myself was an originally Phantom 1, and DJI really does put out a really solid product that I would absolutely feel safe flying.

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