Women And Drones and Drone360 Magazine Announce 2017 Top Women to Watch in UAS

BY Zacc Dukowitz
29 August 2017

Women And Drones and Drone360 Magazine just announced their very first list of Women to Watch in UAS.

A little while back we interviewed Sharon Rossmark, the CEO and Founder of Women And Drones, and more recently UAV Coach’s own Lana Axelrod was featured in a Women And Drones interview, which is all to say that we’ve been following Women And Drones for a while now, and we were excited for the release of this list of women leading the way in the drone industry.W2Wlogo2_FB

To create the 2017 list, Women And Drones and Drone360 received 110 nominations from seven countries, which they paired down to this list of nine leaders and visionaries, selected for nine different categories.

So who are the women disrupting, innovating and shaping the future of the UAS industry? Who, thanks to smarts, energy and tenacity, is making a difference in the UAS field and helping other women do the same?

Here they are!

Business—Holly Kasun

COO/CMO and Cofounder of Flybrix based in San Francisco, CA.

What I want to accomplish is really about breaking down barriers to allow the greatest number of people to engage with drones.

Why a Woman to Watch in Business?

Kasun is inspiring the next generation of drone users with Flybrix, a crash-friendly, rebuildable drone made from LEGO bricks. The company’s global launch in September 2016 generated $1.7 million in revenue in just 45 days. Flybrix is being used in over 500 schools around the world – but it’s great for grown-up kids, too.

Holly Kasun’s Background

Kasun’s grandfather was an aeronautical engineer, so a passion for flight is in her DNA. Her father also ran an electronics business, which she helped with from a young age. When these two fields converged in the world of drones, she was ready to embrace the new technology.


Champion—Mary Wohnrade

Civil engineer, Part 107 operator, and President/Owner of Wohnrade Civil Engineers, based in Broomfield, CO

I have a true passion and unending dedication to advancing UAS technology for the betterment of society.

Why a Woman to Watch Champion?

Wohnrade champions the use of UAS in civil engineering. She’s a passionate sharer of knowledge who is active in a cross-discipline Colorado community that’s openly exchanging ideas. She has developed a proprietary workflow to incorporate UAS and engineering while working on other ways to expand the possibilities of both fields.

Mary Wohnrade’s Background

Wohnrade has held a private pilot certification since she was 22 years old. She says drones were “a natural extension of my love of aviation.” She invested in her first drone in 2015 to capture aerial shots of her company’s large engineering projects. “It wasn’t long before I realized the incredible potential UAS technology has to offer, and the many benefits it could bring to the civil engineering and surveying professions.”


Education—Karen Joyce

Scientist and Senior Lecturer at James Cook University, Cofounder of She Flies, based in Queensland, Australia

We truly believe that gender equality and experience in STEM is everyone’s challenge.

Why a Woman to Watch in Education?

After visiting schools to talk about drones, Joyce noticed how few girls were participating in science and technology activities. So she cofounded She Flies, whose mission is to engage more girls and women with science and technology through the world of drones. She Flies hopes to expand its camps and educational programs beyond Australia soon.

Karen Joyce’s Background

While pursuing her Ph.D. and studying the Great Barrier Reef, Joyce combined snorkeling observations with satellite imagery to create maps. However, she longed for a middle ground between these two methods of data acquisition. Joyce was first introduced to drones through her work as a geomatic engineer in the Australian Army. In 2013, she spent three months in the U.S., including time with the NASA Ames Research Center to learn how it used drones for wildfire monitoring.


Emerging—Lexie Janson

FPV drone racer, software developer, drone certification teacher based in Gdynia, Poland

Every girl who says that I am the one who made her start flying – I feel like I won a lottery.

Why an Emerging Woman to Watch?

As a young woman breaking into the FPV community, Janson pushed past the doubters telling her to “get back to the kitchen.” Through her tenacity and her sheer love of flying, she’s become a high-profile racer – dubbed “The First Lady of FPV in Poland” after a TV interview about drone technology – and is working to raise the profile of drone racing. She travels the world to race, and actively encourages others to explore the sport.

Lexie Janson’s Background

As a self-described lifelong gamer and nerd, Janson has always enjoyed gadgets and tech. Once she was exposed to drones, she immediately knew she wanted to pursue the technology. The hope of setting a positive example for other women in the drone industry informs her activism. “I love what I do, even when my first steps in the industry were full of sexism and hopelessness. I tried to be strong,” she says. “Not only for me, but also for other girls who may come after me.”


Entertainment & Culture—Natalie Cheung

General Manager of Drone Light Shows in the UAV Group at Intel based in Santa Clara, CA

When people see a drone light show, they think that it’s lasers or projection mapping. They are blown away when they hear that it’s all drones in the sky.

Why a Woman to Watch in Entertainment & Culture?

Cheung is establishing a new form of entertainment. Drone light shows are a promising business opportunity for Intel, and she’s the one tasked with growing it. The challenges of creating a product that can be used commercially are daunting — but the payoff could potentially put fireworks out of business.

Natalie Cheung’s Background

Cheung’s first-ever UAS was a crowdfunded drone, which she assembled herself. She still remembers the feeling of flying her first drone: “That excitement and thrill is something that I still feel each time a drone launches — but this is just a side benefit.”


Global Trailblazer—Catherine Ball

Cofounder of World of Drones Congress, Cofounder and Chief Engagement Officer at She Flies, Founder and Publisher of Gumption Trigger, based in Queensland, Australia

I decided to start up on my own to make more of an impact.

Why a Global Trailblazing Woman to Watch?

A big thinker with big ambitions, Ball is a startup specialist working hard to build bridges, convene the UAS community, and advance innovative solutions in the UAS environment. The World of Drones Congress, which debuted in Brisbane this August, is the first major drone event to focus on the Asia-Pacific region. She Flies, which Ball cofounded, works to bring UAS and STEM learning to girls and women.

Catherine Ball’s Background

Ball cofounded She Flies after realizing that less than 0.5% of the members of the drone industry she was working with were women. She also runs four other startups, ranging from research areas in Australia to a book project aiming to highlight empowering Australian businesswomen.


Humanitarian—Helena Samsioe

Founder and CEO of GLOBHE based in Stockholm, Sweden

2017-women to watch_helena

Every life saved is a huge accomplishment.

Why a Woman to Watch Humanitarian?

As the top boss of a humanitarian drone services company, Samsioe is leveraging drone capabilities to solve global problems, in particular public health. She has worked on a UNICEF initiative to develop a humanitarian air corridor to deliver medical supplies in Malawi, and collaborates with other organizations to help heal through UAS tech.

Helena Samsioe’s Background

While working in Africa, Samsioe realized there was a large potential for medical cargo delivery by drone. She strives to continue her work in developing drones for humanitarian and environmental services.


Influencer—Gretchen West

Senior Advisor at Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, Co-Executive Director at the Commercial Drone Alliance, and Cofounder of Women of Commercial Drones, based in Menlo Park, CA

Drones are everywhere, but we need better public support for commercial uses and more positive public acceptance.

Why a Woman to Watch Influencer?

West is a high-profile, highly respected, high-impact advocate for UAS technology, and a familiar face to anyone who’s working on federal policy or commercial advancements. Through the Commercial Drone Alliance, she helps commercial drone end users understand the value of drones by reducing barriers through advocacy and education.

Gretchen West’s Background

West’s career began in nonprofit management, eventually leading her to work at AUVSI. “At the time, I knew very little about unmanned systems, but came to love the potential of this technology for so many industries.” After 10 years, West moved to California to be closer to the heart of drone development.


Technology—Leah LaSalla

Technical Founder and CEO at Astral AR

I really love the autonomy and accountability required in programming and entrepreneurialism, as well as the nerdery of flying neuromechanical drones.

Why a Woman to Watch in Technology?

LaSalla’s startup is developing drones that can be controlled with the mind, “no joystick/tablet required.” Intrigued with the combination of technologies that can deliver this experience, she started patenting and envisioning new ideas. She plans to apply this technology to wide-area search-and-rescue, disaster management, environmental remediation, public safety, and other drones-for-good applications. An added bonus: Five of her company’s eight executives are women.

Leah LaSalla’s Background

LaSalla’s father was an aviation engineer at Northrop Grumman who later started a super-precision tool-and-die job shop where LaSalla worked during high school. She went on to study computer-aided design in college and taught herself nine coding languages — she describes herself as a self-taught polyglot. LaSalla spent over a decade as a software engineer while raising her daughter. “Through these experiences, I also discovered I have a passion for mentoring disadvantaged females in technology.”

Zacc Dukowitz

Contributing Writer

Zacc Dukowitz is a contributing writer, and the former Director of Marketing for UAV Coach. A writer with professional experience in education technology and digital marketing, Zacc is passionate about reporting on the drone industry at a time when UAVs can help us live better lives. Zacc also holds the rank of nidan in Aikido, a Japanese martial art, and is a widely published fiction writer. Zacc has an MFA from the University of Florida and a BA from St. John's College. Follow @zaccdukowitz or check out zaccdukowitz.com to read his work.

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