This blog post was guest written by Dr. Catherine Ball, founder of the World of Drones Congress and World of Drones Education. She recently presented as part of Cisco’s Women Rock-IT speaker series, which was streamed live from her Twitter account.

Despite the convenience of instantaneous food delivery or the wonder of flying cars, we should not lose sight of the tremendous social change powered by today’s technology advances. Drones and autonomous systems, for example, are creating unforeseen opportunity to make a positive impact in the world.

DJI, a large commercial drone company, recently published an article stating that drones saved more than 65 lives in the last year. Around the world, companies and other organizations are already finding innovative ways to use drones, from those that carry defibrillators to those that act as remotely-piloted helicopters during bushfire responses.

Here in Australia, emergency responders are using drones as part of search-and-rescue missions, traversing terrain unreachable through traditional response efforts. Despite these advances, though, the drone industry faces one glaring problem — the lack of gender diversity.

The statistics are reflective of all aspects of aviation, engineering, and aerospace. The representation of women is in the single-digit range, and it is almost inconceivable that some of our most exciting technology hasn’t reached the depths of our larger community.

So, when the idea of the World of Drones Congress was conceived, I, as technical convener, unequivocally stated that women would be represented equally across all levels and all sessions. At both the 2017 and 2018 World of Drones Congress, women participated equally in every session, from those new to the industry to those who were seniors in their roles.

In 2019, we will continue to see 50% participation by women. Why is this important? Well, to have strong economic growth in the budding drone industry, we need a difference of opinion around the table; we need a full range of thoughts and ideas. We need not just diversity of people, but the inclusion of them, as well. Far too often I have been the only woman in the room, and I am not a person who enjoys that.

Watch Dr. Ball’s webinar below:

If I could ask anyone reading this article to do something, I’d ask you to get a drone—even a small, educational one—and start flying it. Get your whole family to try it, even your grandmother. We need more women and girls, really everyone, getting their hands on these smart, personal aircraft.

In the next push to get drones and robotics into Australia’s economic future, we have to look at how we are dealing with it in schools and colleges. At the moment, the digital technology curriculum is very different and disparate across the country. Some experts suggest the adoption rate is actually very reliant on the confidence and aptitude of the teachers who are being given this task.

Thus, we launched World of Drones Education (WoDE), creating a collective platform for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) knowledge and inspiration. With an application and website launching this year, WoDE will be the “Netflix” of resources for teachers, parents, and companies around drones, robotics, and digital technologies — all while representing women in an equal manner.

The new drone economy is significant, and we are at the very beginning. Therefore, we have an opportunity to ensure it becomes a balanced and diverse industry. The economic value of the drone ecosystem has not been quantified for Australia and the region, but if you localize the international studies, we are talking hundreds of millions of dollars of economic potential. The Swiss government are taking drones so seriously that they are now part of the economic growth plan for Switzerland over the next 12 months.

So, how can you get involved in the exciting world of drones? Buy one, have a go (and follow the rules), or even find a local drone enthusiast group so you can try-before-you-buy and see some exciting drone racing. If your company is looking into using drones, get involved with a technical group and throw your hat in the ring for any trials or projects.

Look to your local university and what they are doing with drones and see if there are any ways for you to collaborate or support their projects.

And, of course, you are welcome to connect with me on social media, sign up to WoDE, or download the app when it is released. Drones are here to stay and will be significant in our daily lives in the next few years.

How would you use a drone to make the world a better place?


Austin Belisle

No Longer with Cisco