BJ Swanson retired from commercial lending and became a professional drone pilot

BJ Swanson wasn’t always a Drone Pilot, but when she found herself retired from her banking career, she decided to expand her horizons. 

As a former VP of commercial lending, BJ had years of exposure in various commercial industries and took a particular liking to the commercial real estate industry. One day towards the end of her professional career, she was at a worksite and watched a drone survey a log yard, and she began to realize the true power of drone technology.

That was over one and a half years ago, and today BJ is proud to be a professional drone pilot.

Once her interest in drones was sparked, it snowballed quickly into an exciting hobby. She began testing her pilot skills on a Phantom 3 standard – a “good learning drone” for a self-taught Pilot. Today, she flies the Mavic Pro and Phantom 4 Pro, and is a proud Part 107 license holder, which allows her to fly commercial missions at her leisure.

BJ signed up as a Pilot with DroneBase – the world’s largest professional drone pilot network – and received her first Client Mission within a few short weeks. On DroneBase’s platform, professional Pilots are vetted and offered photography, surveying, and inspection Missions around the country and earn cash for each successful flight.

Like many Pilots on DroneBase’s platform, BJ supplements the Client Missions she receives with her own private work. As of today, BJ has flown 38+ client Missions with DroneBase, and upwards of 50 or more flights for local real estate appraisals.

By now, BJ is a seasoned drone pilot and takes her work quite seriously, with safety and preparation as two of her biggest tenets. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wrecked the Phantom 3 [when I was first starting out]….and now I can say that safety is an absolute priority”. In terms of preparation, BJ goes into each flight with a swiss army knife’s worth of information. Her pre-flight ritual includes scanning Google Earth to get a sense for the elevation she’ll be flying at, a solid checklist of the flight requirements, and of course, a read on the weather.

In BJ’s eyes, weather is one of the bigger hurdles when it comes to safety and preparation: “The biggest barrier is the weather. It can flip in 10 minutes or so, so there are times when you have to delay or wait out a rain storm [in order to complete a Mission].”

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, BJ has also learned to take education into her own hands. She recommends that new pilots – especially women – remain unafraid of speaking up and asking questions. “People aren’t afraid to answer questions, but you have to talk to them.”

“I think it would be great if more women got into this industry,” she went on. “It’s very exciting. [Asking questions can be]  intimidating, but for women to grow and be successful, we have to not be afraid. We’re just as smart, [and shouldn’t] be afraid to say or ask anything if it will advance our learning.”

Submitted by:
Amanda Huggins
Brand & Content Director
DroneBase is the world’s leading aerial imagery service provider

“Expert Insight” is the independent views and opinions of the submitting named author of this article.

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