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Interview with Sally French of The Drone Girl

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Sally French DroneGirl

Sally French
Founder of Drone Girl

Today we got a special guest we have one and only Drone Girl on the MyDearDrone so stay tuned in, and we could check it. So, for everybody who is keeping an eye on drones for the past year or two you may know Drone Girl, she is Sally French.

Sally French never meant to get involved in drones. However, when she had, she was addicted, and she is shattering many folk’s beliefs that quadcopters are only a guy thing. Today we talk with Sally, The Drone Girl.

She is a geek girl, journalist, and southern California native who loves UAVs. Her work was published in sites including MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, NPR, Forbes, The BBC, Orange County Register, and The Economist.

She is just like other pilots in that she has taken some excellent video and had a few disastrous crashes. That is why we are highlighting her as our guest for the Expert Interview Series. Thanks, Sally, for sharing with us her talent.

This interview talks about the origin of Drone Girl and where Sally predicts the drone market going in 2019 and beyond. In case, you like RC drones and need to know further about them, below interview is an excellent way to find out more.

Welcome Sally, tell us a bit about yourself and how you started operating drones?

I was a college student at the Mizzou and required one extra credit for graduating. My final semester, the school provided a drone journalism course. I got no idea precisely what a quadcopter was during the time, yet I enrolled and was hooked instantly. While the study ended, I wished to continue understanding about drones, that is why I started Drone Girl.

What did you notice first about drones which made you believe it would catch up, and not just be some fad or hobby?

I could see that it was this completely new technology, and there was nothing like it. A lot of people compare drones to RC aircraft on one end or helicopters on another, and that’s fine, but drones are also so unbelievably different than those things. I could tell the autonomous power of drones make them far more advanced and utilitarian than an RC plane. And drones can get much lower and into much tighter spaces than helicopters. I could see they would be valuable in so many lines of business.

We see you spend a lot of your effort to your website and drones. Tell us about Drone Girl. How it started and how it is grown?

I started Drone Girl after graduating from Mizzou. The course ended, but I didn’t want the drones to end! I honestly created Drone Girl as a place for me to post my videos as a personal diary just for myself. But, other people started finding my blog and asking me questions about drones, and I realized there was a market for great drone-related content on the Internet.

The Drone Girl Logo

What does it feel to be a woman in an industry/niche with an overwhelming male dominance? What will be your tips for other women who would love to get involved on drones?

There are so many instances where I walk into a crowd of drone people, and I’m the only woman. It can be tough when you so clearly stand out, and when there’s no one else in the crowd like you. Luckily, I have met so many amazing women, mostly online. Even if they aren’t physically there, I feel like I know these women so well through Facebook groups mostly.

You have studied drone journalism at the University of Missouri. What exactly is drone journalism, and will we expect to find more of this on the surge?

Drone Journalism is precisely that – journalists using drones to aid in their reporting. Journalists have long used aerial photography to help in storytelling, such as showing the size of a crowd in a protest or getting an overhead look at an environmental disaster, like flying over a city in the aftermath of a fire or earthquake. Typically they used expensive helicopters. Now, a drone can do that much more cost efficiently. The challenge is that journalists want to be safe, which often means not flying over crowds. And the general public is often skeptical of both journalists and drones. Drone journalism can be an unsettling combo for a mainstream audience, so I think drone journalists are treading lightly.

Sally French has been a part of a vast amount of events. What are some particularly unforgettable events you have participated? What have you learned from those visits?

Oh my gosh, I’m so fortunate to take part in so many drone-related events around the country, and around the world, even! I would be wrong to say that biking over the sea ice with Quark Expeditions in the Arctic Circle wasn’t one of them. But, the most memorable events involve the people. I was just at the Western Drone Show in Canada for an education-focused conference. A bus of students drove 12 hours from their tiny town (population less than 500) just to come for the conference. I couldn’t believe the dedication, commitment, and passion these students had toward furthering their education. It was inspiring.

drone girl in international drone expo

What are a few of the factors you consider, when reviewing quadcopters? What are a few of your favorite drones that you have reviewed, and the reason?

I care most about safety and ease of use, overall. You never know what kind of person is going to pick up that drone and fly it. You don’t know whether they read the instruction and safety manual. I’m going to assume they didn’t (but you totally should!). But, the easier the drone is to fly, the less risk, which is of utmost importance. As for my favorite drone, I wish I could give you some super hipster answer of a drone you’ve never heard of, but honestly, DJI does it best. Their drones are just so well-made, and DJI has covered their bases in all the safety features, like auto-locking propellers, geofencing, redundancies in their software, and more. Not to mention, they innovate in camera technology, size/shape of drones, etc. which makes them the best of the best.

Have you ever crashed a quad? If so, could you explain what happened?

Oh my gosh! So many! Honestly, the first time I flew a drone was within about 10 seconds of operating it. The first drone I flew was a DJI Flame Wheel in a rodeo arena. But, let’s be honest, if you have never controlled any RC craft before, that one is tough to fly!

No GPS lock, no auto hover. It was a full manual! I am so glad of myself for not giving up right there. That first experience was rough, but pick it up, put on some new props and try again!

What do you believe about the present drone law state – there was Section 333 Exemption, and now Part 107 rule, do you think the government is heading in the correct path with such a famous career/hobby?

I understand the frustration right now that hobby pilots cannot fly in most controlled airspace, but it’s also temporary, and I think once the FAA makes LAANC available to all pilots, it will ultimately be much, much better. I’m curious to see how the electronic aeronautical knowledge and safety test for hobby pilots plays out. It’s a great idea in theory – education is good! But, will people do it? And will they know they have to do it?

Taking the Part 107 Remote Pilot Test

What are the pitfalls of not studying the rules, especially if somebody is planning to fly a drone for commercial purposes?

I’m guessing most commercial pilots are researching the regulations. They don’t want their business to be jeopardized by their ignorance. I think the risk is hobbyists who don’t study the rules. It’s so easy to buy a drone on Amazon and immediately start flying it, without realizing that hovering over a crowd of people or near an airport can be highly dangerous.

What do you feel the biggest misunderstandings is of drones?

The whole “is that drone spying on me” misconception cracks me up. Even though drones have gotten quieter and smaller, everyone knows when a drone is in the air. But, look at an iPhone! It’s so easy to take a photo of someone without them knowing inconspicuously. Those are the cameras I’m afraid of – certainly not drone cameras.

Sally During a Special Presentation

What is your new favorite UAV technology which will have a substantial impact in the UAV sector?

I love all the creative uses of drones. Whether it’s the “snotbot” or drones in Cirque du Soleil, I’m constantly reminded of how many ways drones can improve our lives.

Why do drone pilots have to insure their drones? What are a few of the likely risks of flying an uninsured craft?

Liability insurance for commercial operators is what’s most important. It’s just essential to protecting yourself and your business.

sally checks out dji drone

What is your take on the future of drones?

Where’s my taco?! After all these years, I still haven’t received one via drone!

They have such widespread use. I mentioned Cirque du Soleil earlier, but drones are just so cool because they’re getting used in every industry. It’s not only construction. It’s not just agriculture. It’s honestly every industry and career you can think.

What does your quadcopter drone kit seem? What are you flying?

Right now I’m flying the Mavic Air! It’s so compact, and I want something I can throw in my purse.

sally carrying drone in case

Many people admire you as an influencer in the drone niche; who are a few people you believe others should take a look?

Gosh, so many amazing people!! I love how Elena Buenrostro has ramped up so many educational efforts in the drone market. I am so impressed with how she has done a great job educating hobbyists in particular and getting them excited about drones in a way that also has them operating safely.

When you are not operating drones, where could we locate you? (Hint: Gym!)

Gym indeed! I am a competitive weightlifter and in fact, hold three national powerlifting records. I can deadlift 3x my bodyweight, and squat 2.4x my bodyweight! There are a lot of parallels to my drone story and my gym story. Powerlifting is another area where a lot of people look at me and say, “You weigh 100 lbs and are a girl! You don’t belong in a gym lifting 300 lbs.” I love that feeling of being strong (and honestly, being stronger than a lot of guys twice my size!).

sally on gym

Check out ‘Drone Girl’ Sally French on the web

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