Fiona Lake is an Australian professional photographer based in tropical North Queensland. She specializes in agriculture and the world’s largest cattle stations, and has taken aerial photographs from helicopters since 1988.
With the 2016 release of DJI’s Phantom 4, camera quality and usability meant drone photography had become a viable addition to Fiona’s business. She traveled as far away as 2500km (1500 miles) to attend various drone workshops but was dissatisfied with what was on offer. After many hours of drone flying, researching and problem solving she decided to provide the kind of drone training for others that she wished she could have undertaken.
Fiona created the Rural Drone Academy and sessions cover everything a drone pilot needs to know to fly safely, legally, productively and enjoyably. Her focus is on providing comprehensive and practical education that adapts to suit the particular needs and interests of each group of participants. So no two presentations are the same. This means a lot of extra work however it enables better learning outcomes. Small business, employment and social media tips are sometimes included plus the optional specialty subjects – photography and cinematography, or drones in agriculture. It’s usual for each group to contain a wide range of skill levels, from beginners to very experienced drone pilots, but Fiona enjoys the challenge this diversity entails. The depth of experience-based knowledge provided ensures all feel more confident and satisfied that they’ve picked up a great deal of very worthwhile information.
All the drone workshops Fiona has attended have been run by men, and almost all the conference presentations. She has noticed that they have typically have only about 20% women attending whereas her drone workshops usually have more women present than men. Fiona is one of very few women who are fully licenced drone pilots in Australia, and she has put a lot of effort into increasing numbers. Fiona’s experience suggests that more women running drone training would help increase industry diversity.
To date Fiona has been invited to run workshops and presentations at drone conferences on four continents as well as some of the most remote outback locations.
In addition to commercial photography and photojournalism, Fiona’s multi-faceted business includes publishing books, producing magazine features and leading farm tours to other countries. Her most recent photography exhibition was in the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C., opened by Australia’s Ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey. Her website is included in the National Library of Australia’s ‘Pandora’ project, recording websites deemed to be of cultural significance, in perpetuity. Fiona’s work has received numerous awards and she has judged many photography competitions, including the International Federation of Agricultural Journalist’s ‘Star Prize for Photography’.
However, it is the drone workshops that give Fiona the most satisfaction, passing on what she has learned over several decades in business while simultaneously helping to create a global drone pilot network.