Jessie Holt was looking for a hobby and wound up with a career as a drone pilot for real estate

Tell us about yourself and your background. 

My name is Jessie Holt.  If you have been reading the Women & Drones interviews you are aware that the interviews they share, include women of many accomplishments and fantastic professions.  I am not one of those phenomenal women with an amazing story about my time in the industry.  YET.  My biggest accomplishments are being a wife, mother of three, physical education teacher, therapy dog handler and a drone pilot.  I attained my BS in Health/Movement and Leisure Education at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, KY in 2003 and my MS degree in Health/Physical Education from Emporia State University in Emporia, KS in 2009.  I have been teaching elementary PE for 14 years.  I married my wife in Washington, DC on September 27, 2014.  We are the proud parents of three awesome kids: a girl who is six and two boys who are ages seven and eight.   

How did you get started in the drone industry?

My start in the drone industry began as a hobby and “something to do.”  All my life, I spent my spare time playing high school and college sports or coaching sports.  When my wife and I decided it was time for a family we chose adoption.  The adoption classes we were required to take over the course of six months conflicted with being a dedicated coach.  Knowing that I would be unable to provide the time and attention a coaching position requires, I decided it was time to retire the whistle.  Our adoption became final in 2013 and as our kids have gained their independence from toddler stage, my wife found me repeatedly saying, “I don’t have anything to do.”  She is a photographer and encouraged me to get a drone.  I started with a toy drone I purchased from a local department store and I loved the thing.  It was easy to fly, it would do flips and even some low-quality video.  Once she saw how much I enjoyed the toy drone and how often I was playing with it she purchased me a DJI Phantom 3 Standard.   I immediately started learning everything I could absorb about the drone, the industry and the FAA requirements.  In a relatively short period of time drones have turned into a passion.

Tell us about your organization and your role there.

My business is named AJP Drones.  I am the founder, owner and sole pilot.  I do freelance work with majority of my customers falling within the real estate market.  We live in the beautiful Appalachian Mountain area of northeastern Kentucky.  Some of the land here that is listed for sale is difficult to reach with an average vehicle or is marketed toward out of town individuals looking for hunting or weekend getaway locations.  The drone footage makes it easier for the agents to market to those groups.  It also doesn’t hurt that I am an HGTV junkie.  Combining the use of a drone to showcase homes seemed like a no brainer.  While most of my clients currently come from the real estate sector, I also have worked some events in our area and also discuss projects with other potential clients to see if I can help them fulfill their vision.

Industry Experience:

What do you like most about being in the UAV industry?   

Flying my drone feels like freedom and I love seeing the areas that I am working in from a whole new perspective.  I operate mostly in northeastern Kentucky.  This area of Kentucky usually takes a big hit in the reputation category due to many stereotypical misconceptions.  I can assure you though, after lots of travel to many different states, northeastern Kentucky might very well be one of the most beautiful places in the US.  Even more so when you can see the beauty of the mountains and valleys from the perspective of a drone.

I also like that that the drone industry is up and coming and that with STEAM schools beginning across the US, women and girls are learning that this industry includes us.    I am proud to be on the leading edge as a female pilot in my area.

What’s your favorite type of project and why?

I can’t say that I have a favorite type of project.  In the short time my business has been up and running, I have been fortunate enough to complete ten projects.  What I enjoy most is seeing my clients putting my creations to work for themselves.  When I visit a client’s website or social media pages and my work is there, it’s humbling to know that they trust me enough to showcase their business or event.

Do you have a success story you would like to share?

I recently was given the opportunity to present to a group of middle school young ladies that were attending a summer STEM Camp at a local school district.  There were about 25 students participating in the group who listened to me speak about the industry and do a demonstration for them.  It was a fantastic experience to see a group of young ladies interested in the technology field and pursuing what it has to offer.

What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?

The most exciting part about the current climate of the industry is that it is here to stay and the market is wide open.  Instead of women constantly trying to climb to the top of a corporate ladder, we have an opportunity to join in on the leading edge of this industry and set ourselves atop from the beginning.

I also want to serve as a role model to my daughter so she can see that science, math and technology fields aren’t just for boys.  Additionally, I want my boys to see their mom flying a drone and using technology so they grow to expect women to be in this field.   

What You’ve Learned:

What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry? 

My biggest “lightbulb” moment per se has been the fact that even in a small rural town, drone jobs are available.  Drone jobs are not limited to the bright lights of a city.

What have you learned you wish you had known when you got started?

I am still just starting out and most likely will feel that way for quite some time.  I am learning new things every single day.  While it can be overwhelming and mentally exhausting, I enjoy every minute of the learning process and interacting with all the new people I get to meet virtually and in person.

Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?

Don’t let the fear of leaving your comfort zone hold you back.  I am typically a socially introverted person but I understand if I truly want my business to have a chance, I need to build a complete network of not only clients but also industry professionals.  I have learned so much by taking a plunge and interacting directly and indirectly with people like Josh Boughner, Taylor Mitcham and being an active participant in her FB group, Drone Pilot Profits.  Even reaching out to Ms. Sharon Rossmark via email was WAY out of my comfort zone.  But, outside of the comfort zone is where the opportunities lie.


What’s the best way for W&D readers to connect with you?

Jessie Holt
IG: @ajpdrones

The Final Word:

Is there anything else you would like to share with the Women and Drones Community?

I would like to extend a very appreciative thank you to Ms. Rossmark for the opportunity to participate in this interview.  I am honored to be featured alongside of the women who have already made a tremendous impact on the industry which has made my path into the field a bit easier.  Safe flying!

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