Luisa Winters flies planes, drones and just launched a homeland security consulting firm
Luisa Winters was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in the Dominican Republic. This makes her one of the few female Hispanic UAV pilots living in the USA. At an early age, Luisa showed a passion for aviation, but didn’t get the chance to pursue her dreams until later in life. Already an adult with grown children, Luisa became a Private Pilot and started flying a Cessna around her home airport in Maryland. Getting into UAV/Drones was the next logical step.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
“I was always interested in aviation; flying has been especially important to me. However, life got in the way until I was an adult. The idea I had, even as a young woman, was to fly to shoot videos and film; I have been a videographer and video editor for over 30 years. Drones made this dream easier and more affordable. I fell head over heels in love with drones/UAVs about 6 years ago, and I haven’t stopped since.”
Luisa Winters flying her Cessna 172
Tell us about your organization and your role there.
“Patriam Shield is a homeland security consulting firm. Together with my partner, Eddy Weiss, we started this organization in January 2018. I oversee everything UAV and aerial. I am an aviator and an instructor. I teach others about UAVs and video / photo / print, especially Adobe products as I am an Adobe Master Instructor – one of only 9 in the world. I am also in charge of planning, coordinating and briefing volunteers and staff.
I met Eddy last summer when we did some exercises on Search and Rescue, Fugitive Pursuit, Tornado Recovery and others. I drove from Maryland to Iowa as I wanted to learn about this aspect of UAVs. Eddy was in charge of the whole operation. It was during these exercises that I saw in Eddy the partner I had been looking for, and he agreed to go in business with me. Eddy has over 30 years of experience in SAR, First Response, Disaster Recovery, and more. Before this relationship with Eddy, my experience had been as an aviator, videographer, editor and instructional designer.
I am the chief pilot and instructor for Patriam Shield, and actively participate in exercises and real-life scenarios involving police, firefighters, EMTs and first responders. It has been quite a ride ever since last summer, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
Luisa Winters and Sharon Rossmark. SAR exercise
Eddy and I also speak at different conferences in the US and abroad (I’ve been to Abu-Dhabi, Brazil, and other countries as an instructor) and train others in security, prevention and mitigation of risk before and after a disaster. Of course, I am also involved with administration, sales and customer support.”
What do you like most about being in the UAV industry?
“FLYING! Anytime I get a chance to fly my airplane or UAV, it brightens my whole day. I find it hard to describe, but it’s a feeling like no other.”
What’s your favorite type of project and why?
“Hard to say – I have been a videographer since 1984, so I love cinematography projects. The beauty shots and the experimenting with creating tension and release using a drone are both exhilarating and challenging. It provides me with an artistic release that I always treasure. However, helping to find a missing person, or helping firefighters with my IR Thermal camera, or doing anything with EMT and first responders offers a different kind of satisfaction. It is knowing that we have produced real change in the life of another human being. That alone is a feeling I will always go after – in many ways it’s more rewarding than the artistic, cinematographic side of my flying.”
Luisa Winters teaching some of the members of our armed forces
Do you have a success story you would like to share?
“I have many, but I’d like to share one of those that touched my heart the most. This is a very personal story. It is not impressive, it is not grandiose, or significant to anyone but me.
2 years ago, I was in the Dominican Republic flying my UAV, getting cinematographic shots of the beach, and landscapes, etc. It was close to sunset and the fishermen had returned to the shore and were greeted by their children. The sight of a woman flying a drone is not common, so obviously, I attracted the attention of all the kids who were there. On the outside of the crowd that I had surrounding me, I saw a little girl, too timid to come closer to me. I thought she was the cutest girl I had even seen, so I motioned for her to come close to me. We spent the next 10-15 minutes talking and flying. You see, the Dominican Republic is a poor country. The children of the fishermen are poor. There is no way that a poor girl like that could ever dream of flying. But the look in her eye, the change of her whole demeanor while she was flying the drone (under my supervision) told me that, at that moment, she believed that she could do it – and at that moment so did I. When we parted, she gifted me the prettiest smile I have ever seen.
Luisa Winter and Girl at the Beach
She’s probably forgotten all about me and that brief period of time we spent together, but I have not forgotten her. I don’t think I ever will.”
What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?
“Everything! In the US, women comprise about 5% of all pilots (UAVs included), and in the rest of the world that number is even lower. We have a lot of ground to catch up, but the opportunities are there! There is nothing we cannot do, nothing we cannot achieve. I believe that eventually, the percentage of women in this industry will match the percentage of women in the population (over 50%). These are exciting times, kind of like the “Old West”. I love the fact that we are pioneers and ground-breaking individuals that are setting the examples for generations to come.”
What You’ve Learned:
What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry?
“It just happened last week. We were doing exercises on Search and Rescue with the Girl Scouts in Wisconsin (Badgerland), and the first night of the exercises most of my drones didn’t fly at all (I had tested all of them in the afternoon). The controllers were not communicating with the birds. Luckily, I brought several backups, and one of them could fly. The next day I had to re-bind all the non-flying UAVs to their controllers. Later in the week, we read that the Blue Angels were nearby and that the military was testing some communication jammers.
What did I learn? Always bring backups (several), because you never know what can happen – This was in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin and without any indication or malfunction, most of my drones were rendered inoperative.”
What have you learned you wish you had known when you got started?
“That having expensive equipment does not make one a better pilot/operator. Most people think we need to spend thousands and thousands of dollars getting expensive, high-quality equipment. When in reality, moderately priced equipment will perform almost as well, and get the job done.
Do we need high end equipment for some jobs? Of course! But not for all jobs. When we are starting, chances are that we will not need super expensive equipment. We can get by with cheaper UAVs and do just as well.”
Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?
“Don’t let anyone, especially you, tell you that you cannot be as good or better than anyone else. For some reason, I feel that we, women, lack the confidence to tell ourselves that truth.”
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