Geoinformatics Specialist Kerstin Traut experienced big changes since flying her first drone five years ago
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I entered the drone world five years ago after working a couple of years in research on forestry and satellite remote sensing. I have a Master’s degree in Geoinformatics and Remote Sensing and always had great interest in environmental science and nature conservation. From early on in my studies I am seeing the tremendous potential of aerial images to improve our understanding of environmental systems and how new technologies can help make our lives simpler and more sustainable. Now I am delivering drone and consulting services to clients around world, helping them to create a better understanding on their land and hence to improve land structures and work processes.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
I started working with drones five years ago when the drone industry was still in its early stages. Many small companies popped up mostly emerging from a university background or the garages of hobbyists. Drone missions five years ago were so much harder than nowadays. No autopilots, no ground stations and very little safety features. In fact I remember to mix the petrol for the first drone we flew in my small guest room in the Philippines. My team and I were flying agricultural land on the southern Philippine islands to create high-resolution 3D models, estimate soil erosion rates and put soil erosion structures into place. Our drone looked like a flying chair with cameras and parachute, was called Susie and we loved her dearly. Since then I have seen a rapid development and professionalization of the technology. The more drone technology develops further the more applications I can see to improve our knowledge on land processes and our ability to make better management decisions.
Tell us about your organization and your role there.
QuestUAV Ltd is a British company manufacturing fixed wing drones for civil applications in the Northeast of England and providing flight services all over the world. The company was founded by Nigel King, an ex RAF, ex PC model flier and photographer ten years ago. Everything started in the conservatory of his chalet by the sea with the idea for aerial imagery to monitor his shrinking coastline. Today QuestUAV is employing more than 20 people including pilots, engineers and consultants. One third of QuestUAV’s staff is female and we love calling ourselves the QuestUAV DroneGirls.
Before I got hired by QuestUAV I was actually a loyal customer of Nigel King operating QuestUAV drones for a German company over three years in Thailand and the Philippines. I started working for QuestUAV in January 2016 bringing GIS and consulting services to the business. I am involved in flight services, sales and research projects loving the versatility of my work. I also provide client training and write the QuestUAV case studies on subjects as coastal erosion, safety in mining and the use of multispectral sensors in agriculture.
What do you like most about being in the UAV industry?
To be part of a big adventure and to be surrounded by innovative ideas and a creative community. Drones have great potential in so many different industries and applications. I do believe that drones when used in a peaceful and careful way will make human lives easier and our way of living more sustainable.
What’s your favorite type of project and why?
I love working in research projects where we develop and test new technologies and workflows for the very first time. Currently, my team and I are working on a PPK solution for our drones bringing real benefits to agriculture and surveying applications. The project requires all my skills on surveying, photogrammetry processing and GIS.
Do you have a success story you would like to share?
QuestUAV has an ongoing project in the Philippines where we fly agricultural land in order to estimate soil erosion. Our aerial images are the basis for three dimensional farm models and the implementation of soil protection structures. Our work has shown incredible improvements. Ground measurements showed that we were able to reduce the soil loss significantly from 200 t/ha/ yr (tons per hectare per year) down to 13 t/ha/yr!
What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?
Larger than the drone manufacturing industry are the applications that drones can be used for. In our area this includes applications within agriculture, surveying, archaeology etc. Drone applications are becoming increasingly versatile and women should not be afraid to operate drones in their field of expertise. I believe that the female mentality and creativeness will open opportunities for applications in areas that we have not yet discovered.
What You’ve Learned:
What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry?
My lightbulb moment was to show a renowned soil scientist the aerial images I have just acquired over his land. I took notes while he told me what he can see in the images in terms of plant vigor, diseases and soil problems. After the discussion I realized that there was no space left in my note book. Since I call drone images “open books which we have to learn how to read”.
Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?
Work hard, play hard. Flying drones is exciting, fun and offers great adventures. However, nothing is for free. Overcoming challenges are part of the job.
What’s the best way for W&D readers to connect with you?
The Final Word:
Is there anything else you would like to share with the Women and Drones Community?
Be proud to be a woman in the industry. There is no conflict in being feminine and a professional drone operator. Work hard, play hard. Go out and discover the world from above!