Featured photo: Dr. Tulinda Larsen, FAA Certified Remote Pilot & private manned aircraft pilot. Tulinda is the executive director at Deseret UAS, a new nonprofit in Utah offering a centralized source of information on Utah UAS, fostering research and developing UAS/UAM flight test ranges. She is the author of The Drone Hobbyist and a Trustworthy Drone Business. Tulinda is also an adjunct professor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.

Aviation Gender Gap By The Numbers

Women have played a part in the world of aviation since its maiden days.  In 1906, E. Lillian Todd was the first woman in the world to design and build airplanes.  Helen Richey was another pioneering female aviator in 1934, as the first woman to be hired by a commercial airline in the United States.

The good news – the number of women involved in the aviation industry has steadily increased over the years and they are represented in almost all flight categories.   The bad news – despite this progress, the ratio of women compared to men in aviation is still significantly off balance.  Statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration reveal that females represent only seven percent of the total manned aircraft pilot population.  Those same statistics show the imbalance is also present in the growing drone industry.

Since the enactment of the small drone rule by the FAA in August of 2016, more than 100,000 people have obtained the Remote Pilot Airman Certificate which allows them to fly a drone for both commercial and recreational purposes.  The number of women on that list has been growing, up to 6,188 according to the FAA’s latest count.  Still, that number indicates females make up only 5.8% of the total certificated remote pilot population.   As in other areas of the aviation industry, the representation of women is very low.

Diving deeper into the FAA statistics, there are some positive trends.  The number of female remote pilots has almost caught up with the number of female commercial pilots of manned aircraft. As of year end 2018, 6,556 women held FAA Commercial Pilot Certificates and 7,136 women were FAA certified Air Transport pilots. This shows that in just over two short years the number of women holding FAA Remote Pilot certificates has grown to nearly the same level as women in the manned aircraft sectors who hold Commercial Pilot certificates and approaching the number of women holding ATP Pilot certificates.

When it comes to the drone industry, Goldman Sachs Research forecast a “100-billion-dollar market opportunity by the year 2020.”   The report went on to say “Like the internet and GPS before them, drones are evolving beyond their military origin to become powerful business tools. They’ve already made the leap to the consumer market and now they’re being put to work in commercial and civil government applications from firefighting to farming.  That’s creating a market opportunity that’s too large to ignore.”

Here’s one more prediction, that women will not ignore the opportunities in the drone industry.  Through more exposure and education, engagement and recruitment, we’ll see progress continue when it comes to narrowing or eliminating, the gender gap in aviation.

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