Angela Livingston was first in line to add UAV technology to her two decades of mapping experience
Tell us about yourself and your background
I have 20 years of Photogrammetry, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) experience. I started out as a mapping technician in 1999 before digital aerial photography was a thing. I then moved into my company’s aviation department helping with flight planning and data processing. I spent a lot of time flying aerial mapping missions in manned aircraft, operating the cameras all over the United States.
Throughout my career I’ve helped large aerial mapping companies implement new cameras and sensors into their operations. I became a Certified Photogrammetrist in 2008 and a GISP in 2014.
About 5 years ago I began looking into UAVs as a platform for collecting data for mapping. The technology wasn’t quite there yet, but I knew it was going to be the future of our industry. In 2017 I received my Part 107 license, convinced my current employer to invest in the latest UAV technology, and built their mapping program from the ground up.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
I had been keeping an eye on drones in the mapping field for the last 5 years. I attended a UAV conference in 2015 to see how far the technology had come and began really researching the different options. In 2017, I took a 1 day training course offered by DartDrones on beginning flying, received my Part 107 shortly after, and have been flying ever since.
Tell us about your organization and your role there
I work for a large Civil Engineering company in Texas. We have a large team of surveyors that support our land development teams with their services. I saw the opportunity to save the company alot of time and money by integrating drones into our survey work. With my background already being in photogrammetry, lidar, and mapping, I took it upon myself to research the most applicable technology to our business. I presented a business case to our executives and they pulled the trigger on a DJI M600 Pro equipped with a high-resolution camera and a lidar scanner. I was promoted to Geospatial Manager and I am responsible for the overall leadership and management related to data acquisition of Lidar and Aerial Imagery. I create project work plans and staffing requirements, scopes, budgets, and QC procedures. All data products we create must be held to a national accuracy standard and i ensure that is done. I am currently the Chief UAV Pilot and lead a field crew of 3 people. I have trained my team in data collection procedures, developed pre and post-flight checklists, and am constantly refining the process.
With my new role and the excitement of drones in general, a large focus has been on marketing and business development. I work very closely with those teams to market our new services and educate others on the benefits of what we provide.
What do you like most about being in the UAV industry?
The newness of it. It feels great to be a part of a growing industry from the early stages. I can’t imagine where we will be in the next 5 years.
What’s your favorite type of project and why?
Lidar data collection on Central Texas ranch land. I love being outdoors and flying a huge ranch where its just us and nature is like home to me. In 1 day, I can collect 400 acres and get extremely accurate detailed data, where it would take a survey crew a month to collect the same site.
Do you have a success story you would like to share?
I think I am my own success story. I tried for 2 years to convince folks that the investment was worth it. But it wasn’t the right time for them. When I finally got the go ahead I took off with it and haven’t looked back.
What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?
Aviation has always been a predominately male field. I think that drones will give more women the encouragement to explore aviation in general. I know since I’ve passed my Part 107 I’ve been really interested in pursuing taking flying lessons for manned aircraft. I hope that more women will be encouraged to learn and take that first step.
What’s your current favorite drone to fly?
DJI M600 Pro
What You’ve Learned
What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry?
There hasn’t been one really. It’s a constant learning process.
What have you learned you wish you had known when you got started?
Always be prepared with the local police departments phone numbers, you never know when you’re going to get shot at or confronted. (Yes my drone has been shot at).
Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?
Be persistent, be prepared, and don’t be afraid to take your time to do it right.