Robin Goodlick left life on the farm to help government agencies integrate UAVs into their disaster response plans
Tell us about yourself and your background.
To be honest, I was a simple farm girl that stayed in the agriculture world most of my life. From the family farm to a fertilizer company, my employment had stayed within the ag world until one year before Hurricane Sandy when the desire to become a part of something bigger became overwhelming. Living in a small town, I paid a lot of attention to natural disasters that had the capability of tragically changing small towns like mine. I wanted to be a part of the response to those incidents. As a single female, I was available and willing, but struggled to find a “place” until I found the team I am a part of now. When initially approached, I wondered why they had targeted me as I had no experience in this world of response, but the team’s Commander shared with me that he was looking for a “practical problem solver”. Having grown up on the farm, he felt I had that gifting and needed only to focus that gifting. Always quiet with a mild case of bad self-image, I was doubtful in my ability at the time to meet the challenges he was presenting but found that the there is a world out there waiting for innovative women to simply step up.
I still reside in a small town while travelling coast to coast and can say that I have found myself and my inner strengths these past few years; still a farm girl that prefers the smell of hay and horses but a lot more sure of myself than I ever was.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
I was recruited to be a member of a national disaster response team that primarily worked major disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes. The organization was in a transition phase at the time and was experimenting with the use of drones for damage assessments and searches. After joining, the transition was completed and the organization was down-sized into a tactical operations response unit. The use of drones became much more about communication, homeland security and search capability. I was caught up in the change and became the Field Operations Specialist for that team.
Tell us about your organization and your role there.
We are a tactical support team working side-by-side with government agencies. As a private sector team, we supply tactical and operational support including drone abilities. These operations may be as small as a severe weather disaster strike to large scale dynamic events or massive special events.
I am also employed by C4L & Associates, a homeland security and emergency management consulting firm that specializes in training responders as well as research and development of responder solutions. My position with this company gives me the opportunity to work with innovators and engineers that are developing the “next gen” products to be used in keeping our country safe while training agencies in disaster and homeland security response.
What do you like most about being in the UAV industry?
We are the beginning of it all. I don’t feel like I have to catch up in this industry but rather know that I am paving a road that was never there before. I reflect on my farm girl background all the time because in just a few years I have watched a small ill-maintained dirt road become a paved highway; this time, it’s ME paving that road! It’s exciting. I cannot think of another industry where you can be a “veteran” after less than half a decade… the growth of this whole thing is breath-taking and makes my head spin.
What’s your favorite type of project and why?
My responsibilities include research and development of new protocols and products in the field. I love being able to find problems that have created havoc in the field for years and finding ways to solve them from the air. Being able to assist an agency as they integrate UAVs into their own response plans is exciting because I know I am not only teaching or training but I am creating a successful future and will therefore be somewhat responsible for saving lives in that future whether I am a part of that agencies operations or not.
Do you have a success story you would like to share?
We have deployed several times to a region of the Midwest that is plagued by flooding and tornado outbreaks. For decades, the responders in this area have been plagued by the lack of ability to assess threats and needs because they were confined to ground operations. We recently had the opportunity to deploy again only this time we went airborne. In less than 30 minutes we were able to accomplish more than previously accomplished in days. The intel this provided brought such a new confidence and peace to those agencies I was asked to create a program for them so that they could continually apply this new technology in the future. It seems like something so small, but the number of lives saved over the next 50 years could be staggering. I guess every deployment leaves me feeling that… the success story is not one instance; it’s my everyday life now.
What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?
The world of homeland security is full of testosterone and big guys with big attitudes. It is a world for the “bad-asses” and because of that, you do not see a lot of women out there. I have always been a fan of female firefighters and law enforcement because of the delicate balance of “beauty and bad-ass” they have portrayed, but those women are incredibly special women and not every girl is cut like that. In the world of drones, size, physical ability and strength doesn’t play a role. I am a bigger farm-girl and can out-lift a lot of men (and out-work them), but what is so cool is that I could be a Size 1 and still run the show in this industry. This opens up a huge door for girls looking to become involved in homeland security, disaster response and emergency management at a high level (pardon the pun).
What You’ve Learned:
What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry?
My “lightbulb moment” was when I realized I was a Carl Fisher. Don’t know him? I am not shocked, and that’s okay. See, when the automobile was invented, everyone got excited but soon the excitement became frustration because while the automobile was being developed rapidly, all these new cars were stuck in the mud. It was in 1912 that Carl Fisher began to develop the Lincoln Highway which still to this day runs from California to New York. I currently live not far from that highway (known as Highway 30). My “lightbulb” moment was when I realized I was a Carl Fisher in this industry and that my legacy was going to be that of a woman that paved the road for others. Nobody may ever know my name, but I am confident that generations to come will use my road. You gotta admit, that’s one in the win column for us girls.
What have you learned you wish you had known when you got started?
I wish I had known that I was capable. I have a great mentor in my Commander and he has helped me through some dark times when I doubted my own abilities and let that distract me from my work. This industry has changed my life as I have let myself believe in myself. I guess I wish I had known it was okay to do that years ago.
Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?
As a farm girl, I never shopped for clothes in the Women’s Department of Macys. When we need boots, a hat or jeans, we just went to the “farm store”. We were farmers, not men and women. I guess, using that analogy, my advice is to not let the world tell you where you fit in. Like Nike says, just do it. We’re all pilots so don’t feel pressured to shop in the Women’s Department.
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?
I have launched (pardon the pun) my new website recently www.RobinAerial.com. I am excited about this because it gives me more of a voice out there; it’s my site so I can do what I want with it and I can post about experiences, share about current projects or deployments and hopefully inspire someone along the way!