Tell us about yourself and your background:

Hi! My name is Marjorie Ferrone, and I’m very excited and honored to be interviewed for Women & Drones. I consider myself an Houstonian, and although I was born in the Pennsylvania, I came to Texas as fast as I could! I spent most of my life prior to Drone Parks Worldwide as a dedicated student-athlete, pouring myself into my studies then into my sports. Up through college, I was a highly competitive athlete, even at the Junior Olympic level in some cases. I enjoy pushing myself to my limits to achieve while working with a team.

I spent my first two years of college at the United Stated Naval Academy in Annapolis, which afforded me incredible experiences. Some of which include being one of the first women on a ballistic missile submarine or “Boomer”. While the training and lifestyle there has given me a unique perspective and life experience to draw upon, I ultimately realized I needed a more flexible learning environment, so I transferred to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  

Doing a complete 180 in terms of mentality took adjusting, but I embraced the open-mindedness and flavor of intellectual activity at this Benjamin Franklin-founded university. After graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2015, I co-founded Drone Parks Worldwide, forgoing law school, and put my education to use in an unconventional way. Every moment has been a challenge, but equally an adventure. Now I know what the “school of hard knocks” has to offer.  🙂

How did you get started in the drone industry?

My first introduction to drones was at the United States Naval Academy, before consumer drones even hit the market. I was a plebe (freshman) sitting in my Leadership & Ethics class discussing the morality of drone applications in the military. I was impacted by how powerful this technology was, and morality aside, how many potential uses there could be outside of the military. I pondered what my role could be to shape the industry…

I continued pursuing my college education, while simultaneously following the adaptation of drone technology to the consumer market. Once I graduated, my opportunity to impact the burgeoning industry took shape during a chance meeting with a former high school classmate of mine (Nick Madincea). We struck up a conversation about drones, and he shared his own musings about the need for a dedicated space for drone flight. That day I became the Co-Founder of Drone Parks Worldwide ☺

Tell us about your organization and your role there.

Drone Parks Worldwide is a trailblazing startup headquartered in Houston, TX. It is our long-term goal to build indoor stadiums in every major city across the world providing a dedicated space for drone entertainment, education, and training.

It is our mission to make drone technology more accessible to the public. Currently, there is no easy way to join the drone community — drones are expensive; you must have a high level of technical knowledge to own, operate, and maintain them; and there is no safe, dedicated space to fly them in.

At Drone Parks Worldwide, when you walk into our facility, you use our drones, we teach you how to fly them, and there is no safety risk. We are creating a path for anyone to easily, cheaply, and safely get their hands on drone technology…and of course have FUN in the process!

By incorporating FPV, or “First Person View” technology, we are giving pilots and spectators an addicting out-of-body experience that you truly have to try out to understand. By wearing FPV Goggles, you will feel like you are sitting in the drone itself. Let the rush begin!

My role in all of this is, pardon my French, the “Chief Get Sh*t Done Officer,” or more officially, the Chief Operations Officer. A major lesson I’ve learned in my entrepreneurial journey is that (going along with the Navy theme) without the captain, the ship won’t move, and without the navigator, the ship will never reach its destination. Nick is the captain, and I am the navigator. Each of our jobs is absolutely critical, and neither of us can do each other’s job as well, but we recognize and respect our relative roles as being essential to getting our ship to port.  

I often tell people, as an entrepreneur, you must keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, while keeping your head high up in the clouds. It’s a difficult dance to get down, and frankly training yourself to use those different parts of your brain – dreamer and realist – takes time, but is necessary to keep the dream alive while making the dream come to life.

Industry Experience:

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

It’s the modern Wild West: undefined rules, high stakes, and the potential to affect change. Those of us here are willing to sacrifice to follow our passion and seek newfound opportunity. We are risk-takers, adventurers, and we live for a purpose outside ourselves: to impact an awesome community that’s here to stay.

What’s your favorite type of project and why?

I enjoy introducing drone technology to the public. A critical part of the Drone Parks Worldwide mission is to spread the positive potential of drone technology through education. For many reasons, drones are plagued by negative stereotypes that do not represent the full picture of the capabilities of this powerful technology. We believe that drones cannot reach their fullest potential unless we as a society change the way we view them. So Nick and I have taken it upon ourselves to share our views of how drones can change our lives for the better.

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

At the beginning of our journey, I don’t think we even realized how much people would care about what we had to say. That is, until big names like MIT and TEDx invited us to share our story and views.  

After only six months of formal operation, Nick and I were invited to host a two-week-long workshop at MIT, officially titled, “Micro Drone Vehicle Racing and Course Design: Build, Fly, and Pop Up Infrastructure Design.” It was an experience of a lifetime working with some of the greatest young minds in the country.

Then, just three months later, we were on the TEDx stage at Texas A&M University sharing our views for the future of drone technology, in addition to challenging the negative stereotypes. I’ll never forget the look in the eyes of our audience. I was so humbled that we were given such a stage for our opinions. Truly an honor.

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

 Frankly, simply that there IS such promising potential. Let me explain myself…

This is a community that is predisposed to be composed of men. Generally speaking, the current consumer (as opposed to commercial) drone community is quite homogenous, in terms of gender. This doesn’t come as a surprise when you consider the fact that personal knowledge and experience is a huge barrier to enter the community. Buying, maintaining, and learning to pilot a drone require skill sets that are more easily acquired with prior experience in, for example, the military, traditional aviation/RC, or gaming. All of this makes sense, but all of these are also male-dominated activities. This creates social and political gender barriers that prematurely and unfairly exclude women.

The fact that women have already made an appearance on the scene of the drone industry is a promising harbinger for their future as a core part of it. And what’s the driving factor? Plain and simple: women’s fearlessness and tenacity. I’ve met quite a few women who have had the ambition to start their own drone-based companies, with no personal experience in related fields, but just because they were interested in drone applications. (Shout out to Belinda Dow of Dow GeoSpatial!)  Keep kicking booty, girls!

What’s your current favorite drone to fly?

My favorite drone to fly is a 3-inch racing quad. Initially, I was going to say a Micro Racing Drone, such as a Tiny Whoop, because the FPV perspective makes you feel like a fly buzzing around. But when you crash a Tiny Whoop, you know there won’t be any serious consequences (other than getting stuck in someone’s hair 😉

When you’re flying a bigger racing quad however, you know if (when) you crash there will be greater consequences. This raises the stakes and also your heart rate. There really is no feeling like flying a bigger FPV racing quad — flying so high you feel as free as a bird ☺

 What You’ve Learned:

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

I’ll comment on this from a more personal angle.

As Drone Parks Worldwide has grown, so has the number of opinions about us and our company. We have learned to handle criticism en masse, which is something that you can’t prepare for until it hits you.

I think the turning point was when someone left a comment on the video recording of our TEDx talk criticizing…my pants. It was then and there that we decided, the only opinion that can matter to us is our own (outside of well-intentioned professional criticism). The success of this company depends on our belief in ourselves; we simply do not have the time, energy, nor desire to entertain naysayers.

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

Entrepreneurship may be the war, but the war is won by fighting many battles. Many of those battles will require you to quickly overcome personal challenges. Be adaptable and willing to change. Do not be too prideful to be wrong and listen to your more experienced counterparts. Do not defend yourself or your company, but be open to change and honest feedback — being wrong is the first step on the path to being right!

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

A tip to my ladies out there: change starts from within.

I may sound like a total hipster saying that, but I have realized that if I want to affect large-scale change, I have to first change within me what I want to change around me. As a woman in the currently male-dominated drone industry, I have realized that if I want to be viewed a certain way, I first have to view myself that way. And I think that is the hardest step to take — to not listen to anyone’s voice but your own.

Connection:

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

Marjorie Ferrone
drone parks worldwide at gmail dot com

 The Final Word:

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

Thank you for making women in this industry a priority! What y’all are doing is invaluable to people like us at Drone Parks Worldwide, who make it part of their mission to weave inclusivity and equality into the drone community. Keep up the good work and stop at nothing to keep the love alive!

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