Tell us about yourself and your background.
My name is Kim Barrows and I’m 42. I have worked in the financial industry since 1999. Unfortunately, it is not something I am incredibly passionate about – I like to joke that I sold my soul for a 401(k) and dental insurance. In my spare time I enjoy photography, going to the zoo, and of course, flying.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
A friend bought a small toy drone that I thought was pretty neat and that evolved into him buying bigger and better drones. As he began to fly the larger drones, I would act as his spotter and that made me really want to try it out myself. My very first drone was a tiny Hubsan. Eventually I went from flying a palm-sized toy to building a 450 Flamewheel.
What sparked your interest in racing FPV ?
I went to the F3 Expo in Atlanta in the fall of 2015. I actually got to meet pilots that I had been watching on YouTube and had such an amazing time. At that point, I was still flying LOS (line of sight) and had no intentions of making the jump to FPV. I suffer from incredible motion sickness and really didn’t think I could handle it. But the combination of seeing first hand what those “Masters of Freestyle” could do, combined with friends locally that were getting into racing really propelled me. On the drive home, the idea for FPV Fly Girl was born and I began focusing on how I could make the switch to flying FPV. I recently got back out on the racetrack after almost a year-long hiatus and although I came in last, I was proud to be the only female racer in the event. I am also a runner and I had to remind myself of what I always tell myself when I run a race – being dead last is better than a did not finish, and a DNF is better than a did not start.
What do you like most about being in the UAV industry?
For me, I am constantly amazed by the camaraderie and sense of belonging I get when I fly with other people. For the most part, the community is incredibly supportive and feels like a family. I have made friends that I would not have otherwise and I found something that truly interests me. I have yet to turn it into a career, but I have started studying for my 107, so hopefully that will help me find a career I am passionate about one day.
What’s your favorite type of project and why?
I know I should say building drones, but honestly, that is not my favorite part. In fact, I usually try to outsource the soldering work in exchange for free food. I did learn to solder just so that I would have the skill set, but unfortunately, I am not very proficient at it. I am not the most coordinated person and the combination of tiny parts and very high temperatures is an accident waiting to happen. However, I just started learning how to edit video and that has been rewarding to actually see something through from beginning to end. I have big plans for an epic crash reel of all my disastrous landings. Because if there is one thing I am good at – it is crashing.
Do you have a success story you would like to share?
Last year one of the local news channels did a piece about drone racing and they came out to our local race to talk to a few of the pilots about the sport and about drones in general. This was before DRL started broadcasting on ESPN, so the idea of drone racing was pretty new to everyone in the media. They interviewed me and once the story aired I had friends and co-workers telling me that they had seen me on the news, so that was exciting. It was my very own fifteen minutes of fame.
What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?
What really excites me is that as women get involved in drones, it will spark the interest of young girls in drones. This will in turn get them interested in STEM programs in school at a critical age where many girls are starting to turn away from the “nerdy” things like math and science.
What You’ve Learned:
What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry?
When I first started racing, I had the hardest time making it through a gate. I would line up for the approach and then *WHACK* right into the side or the top of the gate. This happened over and over until someone finally told me to stop staring at the gate and focus on the space in the middle because I had what is known as target fixation. As soon as he told me that, I started sailing through gates and tree gaps.
What have you learned you wish you had known when you got started?
ACRO mode. I started flying in angle, or full assist mode initially, which is when the drone self corrects and auto levels constantly for you. Eventually, after way too long, I went into Horizon mode, which is similar to a bicycle with training wheels. And I stayed there while everyone, and I mean everyone, kept telling me to take off the training wheels and just move into acro mode. A few months ago, I finally heeded their advice and I can only say I wish I had done it from the start. I hesitate to say that because I know I will get a ton of “I told you so!” reactions but, it is true. But sometimes, you have to learn the lesson for yourself.
Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. I know that sounds like a motivational poster – but, it’s true. Self-doubt is one of the most crippling devices. I almost quit last year because a blog I was featured on received a lot of negative attention regarding women in the hobby and I really took it to heart and got discouraged. But then I remembered why I started flying to begin with – because it was something I enjoyed. Because it was my version of meditation – when I fly, my brain is finally quiet and I can’t focus on anything else except that moment in time. And, no one can take that away from me unless I let them.
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?
Keep inspiring each other. I am constantly in awe of the amazing accomplishments of women in this industry. Remember, there is a little girl out there that wants to be just like you one day – and that is an incredible honor.