Following her first drone flight, Desiree Ekstein discovered a new passion and earned a new nickname


Tell us about yourself and your background:

I’m Desiree (Desi) Ekstein, “Drone Diva Desi.”  I am a female sUAS pilots and I have a huge passion to fly.  Ok, it’s more than a passion, but I love it and can’t wait to share and teach others!

Over the last four years, I have taken many unmanned courses and educational seminars.  I am one of the first women to obtain FAA Certified Remote Pilot certificate and I am a member of the FAA Wings program.   I am a graduate of the Gold Seal UAV Ground School and have a night endorsement.  I gain most of my knowledge through hands-on experience which is simply by flying and talking with other pilots at the flying fields.  My favorite thing is when I first arrive and people look me, and then at my UAS (aka drone), and say “is that yours, are you going to fly that”?!    

I realize UAS is proper but I use the term “drone”.   I don’t want to offend anyone, but I want to reach everyone.

How did you get started in the drone industry?

My very first s’UAS was an AR Parrot which came with a camera on it so I got a whole different perspective which usually was either upside down, or from the vantage point stuck in a tree top!  I eventually bought a second Parrot and learned to repair the first while I mastered my flying technique.

My passion turned to obsession in July of 2014 when I got my first DJI Phantom Vision 2 (I named it Fanny).  Fanny had her own following among my friends.  My video’s really skyrocketed!  Since then, I now own several DJI Phantoms, several custom built platforms and a Yuneec Q500

Tell us about your organization and your role there:

I started my company “On the go” about 4 years ago.  Basically, I film anything!  Real Estate, wedding venues, rock videos and unique land formations.  I film for photographers that just need footage.  I also film quite a bit for our local city and chamber – which is something I highly recommend.  It’s good to be involved in your community.   I’m excited that some of my aerial photos have been published.  I have a huge need for speed so I lean towards action sports.  I make video’s for customers, or just give them raw footage.

My goal is to “reach and teach.”  In doing so, I have written many blogs regarding safety, and I have worked with the company called She Drones in STEM/STEAM education.   I have started reaching out to people to teach them how to use their drone and to use it safely.   I would like to grow my online community “” (still under construction lol).  I am also currently just getting involved with the SAN FAAST UAS group.  Which is an FAA safety team outreach to cultivate safer skies in the UAS community. Flying safely and being able to education others about safety is very important to me. 

Me personally…Drone Diva Desi.  I have a heart to serve.  I am glad to be able to work with Leslie Bates and She Drones.   And I’ve been working with Monica England who is amazing and has so much knowledge in the aviation industry.  I’ve been able to learn through the FAA Wings program.  And, I love being able to share what I’ve learned through writing and teaching others how to fly right.   

Industry Experience

What do I like most about being in the UAS  industry?

So far….  pretty much everything!   I love that it is shaping our future.   Our industry is so fast moving you can’t blink. There are so many opportunities. STEM/STEAM.  Science Technology Engineering Art Mathematics.  This industry has a future for all of it. 

What’s your favorite type of project & why?

That is easy, like I said.  I have a need for speed.   I love action sports.  Filming high end speed boats to off road adventures.  I have a goal to get a faster drone and I would like to do some filming from a helicopter.

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

Everything is new!  Even though I have been doing this for years.  So, if anything happens, it is a success story to me.  🙂   Every day I get excited about every phone call & every job opportunity.  Like this… this interview is exciting to me. Looking back, I feel blessed.   I have met wonderful people and joined great groups.  Through them I’ve been able to write blogs, teach people to fly, guide people about safety.

I loved being involved with the 2016 WITI Summit (Women in Technology International) in San Jose.   Leslie Bates with She Drones, Anne Lopez and myself held a session that actually built the drones.  Ann Lopez wrote an amazing curriculum for middle school students and drone engineering.   To see middle school girls take pieces of the drone out of the box, build it, program it and fly it in 4 1/2 hours.  I was amazed at how smart the kids were and the excitement they had.   It was such an exciting group that the parents grabbed the extra kits and started building them.

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

I am surrounded by amazing women. They are gifted and talented in so many ways. They are educators, artists, engineers and motivators.  And, they all have a passion and heart to help others. The first time I felt the passion and power these ladies was at ladies luncheon at the International Drone Day convention.  I left in awe of everyone there.

What You’ve Learned

Most significant light bulb moment:

Not much of a light bulb.  This industry is shaping the future and I can be a part of it.   I think that is why I like promoting safety. The UAS industry has just getting started and I like to think I do my part for “safer skies”.

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

This is a “I did learn”, and I am grateful for it.   When I stepped up to the DJI P2.  I got it off of Craigslist. The person I bought it from had put everything back in the box for me.  He took the time to go through it step by step.  Not hours, but he unboxed it, flew it, gave me some pointers,  and showed me what it was capable of. That half hour he spent with me, made me what I am today.   Back then, it was just for fun, but you never know how your actions could change the future.

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

BE SAFE!.   Learn the rules.   Whether you fly for hobby or commercial purposes.  Take the time to learn your aircraft, and learn the rules.  Join a flying club.  Go to the FAA website for information on current rules.  Join the FAA WINGS program.  Join online communities.  Couple of  Facebook communities that were started by women that are a great resource are Rhianna Lakin’s “Amelia Droneharts RC copter group“, and Taylor Mitcham’s “Drone Pilot Profits“.    


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

Desiree Ekstein – Drone Diva Desi

Final Word

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

Learn to “Fly Right” and keep pressing on.   I have a lot of people reaching out to me just starting out.   They find this field new and exciting and hoping for great new things.   My “overnight success” story started years ago.   Life is what you make of it.   The hard part sometimes if deciding what you want to “make of it”.   I found myself bouncing around “oh, I like this…. or this… oh, I like that too”.   There are so many opportunities available in this industry that I had a hard time finding a focus.   I’ve been doing this for several years, and I may not know the future, but I do know I have gained a lot of knowledge from the past.   So keep pressing on.  Don’t just knock on a door…. open it.  🙂


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