The Marketing Manager at Aloft inherited her dad’s enthusiasm for aviation
What did you do prior to coming into the industry?
Since a very young age, I have always had a passion for writing and wrote for a local newspaper for over six years. I studied Communication Studies at University of Puget Sound where I obtained my degree in 2015. Following graduation, I entered the workforce where I performed roles in content marketing for a variety of industries ranging from commercial roofing to antique art dealers until I entered the drone industry in 2020.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
I grew up with my Dad building and flying RC helicopters which made aviation of all kinds a passion for me from a young age. A little anecdote, when I was only a few weeks old I took my first airplane ride in my Dad’s Cessna 170 to the 1993 Reno Air Races, so you could say I don’t remember a time where I didn’t know and love aircrafts and flying. In 2015 after graduating from college, I began flying drones recreationally. Then in 2017, I received my Part 107 integrating drone photography/videography into my digital marketing services and have been flying commercially for a variety of industries ever since. A little over a year ago my personal passion for drones combined with my passion for writing and content marketing when I joined the Aloft (formerly Kittyhawk) team as their Content Marketing Manager.
Tell us about your current organization
I am the Content Marketing Manager at Aloft, the market leader in drone airspace systems & UTM technologies. Our solutions make it easy to fly safely and operate compliantly at scale. Our dynamic airspace platform connects the largest drone network — spanning recreational users, enterprise customers, regulators, and UTM partners across the globe. We are the sole provider of the FAA’s B4UFLY app as well as the leading FAA-approved UAS Service Supplier (USS) powering over half of the monthly LAANC authorizations in the US.
Tell us about your current role in the industry
In my role as Content Marketing Manager at Aloft, I work closely with our tight-knit team to create and share educational content via our blog, YouTube channel, social channels, and virtual events to provide the drone community with the most up to date information on feature updates on our apps, UAS compliance, and FAA regulatory changes to aid in educating the drone community for continual improvement of the overall safety of the NAS.
What do you like most about being in the industry?
I love how fast-paced this industry is and how innovative the members of this community are in identifying new, really inspiring use cases for drones in everyday life. I virtually attended the FAA’s UAS 2021 Symposium Episode 4 last month and in each session I watched, I was so inspired to hear some of the really impactful ways drones are being used all over the country from safely inspecting ATC towers damaged by Hurricane Ida to delivering COVID vaccines to the elderly to transporting lifesaving blood for patients in need.
What’s your favorite type of project and why?
I live in the Pacific Northwest, so any project that takes place on a sunny day without a cloud in the sky (which any pilot from this area knows can be hard to get, haha) where I can get a clear view of majestic Mt. Rainier from a few hundred feet up is my favorite. I find that my client’s favorite shots are always the ones with Mt. Rainier in the frame too because what aerial backdrop could be more awe-inspiring than an over 14,000-foot active volcano.
What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?
I recently attended Commercial UAV Expo 2021 in Las Vegas and was so inspired by the number of women I saw attending, speaking, and exhibiting at the show. This was my first time getting to meet and see my fellow industry professionals in person and it really made me excited to see how much space there is for women and their innovative ideas in this industry. I was also really inspired by discussions like The Future of Aviation and Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matters at the FAA’s UAS 2021 Symposium Episode 4 where voices like Kimberly Penn from Women and Drones spoke about using gender-inclusive language and increasing visibility of women in the industry to encourage the next generation of young women to join this innovative, growing industry.
What’s your current favorite drone to fly?
My Mavic 2 Zoom is my workhorse and definitely deserves a shoutout for the years of reliable flight and beautiful 4K video and very high resolution photos it takes. But I have to say recently, I had the opportunity to fly an Autel EVO II and was blown away by its speed and ease of the controls. Also, the 8K video could spot an eagle’s nest through dense forest cover in my backyard, so I was pretty impressed by it’s sensor capabilities for its size.
What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry?
The most significant lightbulb moment since I entered the industry would have to be in analyzing user’s data submissions from the FAA’s B4UFLY app (which Aloft has been the sole provider of since the relaunch in the summer of 2019) and realizing with my team that many drone operators in the US were striving to make the NAS safer even before they were required to by FAA regulations. For backstory, near the end of 2020, Aloft rolled out a crowdsourcing feature on the B4UFLY app. This feature allows users to flag existing airspace advisories that may have errors and need to be updated or to submit information about an airspace advisory they believe is missing from the map altogether. This feature was well-received by B4UFLY users and has received thousands of data submissions to date. Throughout the end of 2020 and into 2021, we observed that month after month over half of all the submissions through the crowdsourcing feature on the app were recreational flyers, Part 107 pilots, government organizations, or first responders submitting notifications of intent to fly in uncontrolled airspace all over the country. This was a real lightbulb moment for the Aloft team especially as the final rule came out from the FAA on Remote ID because it signaled that drone operators of all types were voluntarily announcing their operations in an attempt to create better situational awareness for all in the NAS. This led to the development and launch last month of the new feature, Notify & Fly on the B4UFLY app. Notify & Fly enables drone pilots across recreational, commercial, and government/first responders to share their flight activity in uncontrolled airspace with the largest network of airspace operators for the highest level of situational awareness ever achieved across drone operations. It’s really exciting to see how many UAS operators are already aware of the important role they each individually play in ensuring the safety of the NAS.
What have you learned you wish you had known when you got started?
I wish I would have understood the importance of checking my operational airspace better when I first started flying. It really was the wild west when I first started flying drones in 2017 before the launch of LAANC when airspace authorizations used to take days to weeks to receive compared to seconds in many cases now. Now apps like B4UFLY and Aloft really make it quick and easy to check the airspace before bidding out a project for a client. Understanding my operational airspace is essential to accurately scope a project and set client expectations for what is legally possible in capturing their project. If a project takes place in controlled airspace, being able to easily view the ceiling of my operational area is essential information to make sure that the elevation I can operate up to will be compatible with the subject I am intending to capture. There is nothing worse than having to do a reshoot because the client was expecting deliverables different from what you were able to capture and you didn’t communicate that correctly before getting onsite.
Any suggestions for other women entering the industry?
Find a mentor(s), absorb as much information as you can about where the UAS industry currently is, where it has been, and where it is going in the near future, and never be afraid to ask what an acronym stands for because there are so many acronyms to keep track of in the manned and unmanned aviation industry no one keeps them all straight all of the time, haha. A philosophy I try to live by is the better you feel the better life gets and from my experience so far finding your professional place in the industry that fits you just right is something that feels really good. There never is a dull day in the ever-changing drone industry and I can’t wait to see what brilliant minds of all genders come into the UAS industry in the future.