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News & Notes

InterDrone’s Women in Drones Luncheon Triples in Attendance

Women from all industry sectors shared stories and discussed overcoming hurdles

September 19, 2016

The Intel-sponsored Women in Drones Luncheon took place on Thursday, Sept. 8 at the 2016 Las Vegas, NV-based International Drone Conference & Exposition (InterDrone), which drew 3,500 commercial drone professionals.

This year’s luncheon welcomed 180 women (and a few men) — triple the attendance of last year’s luncheon — to eat, network, and discuss the commercial drone market and women’s place in it.

Gretchen West, senior advisor of UAS at Hogan Lovells, moderated the panel. Panelists included Sally French, blogger at The Drone Girl and journalist at the Wall Street Journal; Natalie Cheung, UAV Product Manager for Intel Corporation; Sharon Rossmark, COO of AeroVista Innovations; Jennifer Richter, Partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; and Karen DiMeo, UAS Research and Technical Lead for the FAA.

Each panelist shared their trailblazing moment in the drone industry and some personal tips for helping other women in the industry. Overall, the panel says collaboration, networking, communication, and “standing your ground” are important for women in drones.
Sally French (far left), The Drone Girl blogger and Market Watch journalist, tells the audience how she first got into drones her senior year of college.

The Women in Drones panel from left to right: Sally French, Natalie Cheung, Sharon Rossmark, Jennifer Richter, and Karen DiMeo.
Lauren Sigfusson
“It’s so important to have this community of people and know you’re not alone out there,” says French.

Questions were then taken from members of the audience. The last question went to Daniel Gove, an aspiring drone engineer who essentially asked the women in the room for fashion advice with regard to a glasses-docking nanodrone.

“I thought it was inappropriate,” says Blair Bigcas, CEO and co-founder of engineering design and development company Plyobotics. “All I heard was fashion ― what was he trying to say?”

Gove says he felt like this “seemed like the right place” to gather this information.

“I hope I didn’t offend anybody to the point of harm, and I understand that my actions could be viewed as disrespectful,” he says. “I’m sorry for being disrespectful.”

Gretchen West and the rest of the panelists handled the situation adroitly, quipping that drones shouldn’t fly near faces and could get stuck in hair. Some women went up to Goves after the discussion to “stand their ground,” while other women decided to focus on other endeavors like networking.

Due to delays from a fire alarm and lengthy discussions, West didn’t have time to cover all of her talking points.

Bigcas says she wished the luncheon, which ran just over an hour, was longer.

The Women in Drones Luncheon received mixed reviews at the conference, but its continually increasing attendance and industry support helps to ensure women’s abilities and potential in the drone industry aren’t overlooked.
Featured image: InterDrone