In a male dominated industry like ours, it can be hard for a woman to get ahead. Organizations like Drone360 are hoping to change that trend by documenting and recognizing the industry achievements of women with their Women to Watch in UAS list. The 2017 winner was Mary Wohnrade.
Mary Wohnrade earned her pilot’s license at age 22, but she ended up pursuing a career much closer to the ground — civil engineering, to follow in her father’s footsteps.
And then drones happened. The availability of unmanned aircraft systems took Broomfield-based Wohnrade Civil Engineers to new heights, which, on Tuesday, led to her being named a 2017 Women to Watch in UAS by Drone360 magazine and the Women and Drones organization. Other recipients include Helena Samsioe in Sweden, whose company GLBOHE uses drones to help humanitarian agencies deliver medical supplies; and Natalie Cheung, general manager of the Intel Corp. team behind the spectacular drone light show at the Super Bowl.
“These women are rock stars of the drone world,” said Wendy Erikson, a Women and Drones adviser who also was a first round-judge for the competition. “Hearing that drones are doing to be delivering medical supplies or offering new forms of entertainment and drones shows, it’s just amazing to see all the opportunities that are out there.”
Erikson said that few women are active participants in the drone world, which is why the organization was created. A recent analysis of Federal Aviation Administration 2016 data by BeaconSkySurvey found that fewer than 4 percent of remote-pilot certificates were held by women. But they are out there, Erikson said, noting that 110 women were nominated to the Women to Watch list. (See the winners at drone360mag.com/WomenInUAS.)
You may remember Mary from back in January of 2017 when she was bucking trends in our national parks, specifically the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado; notable because drones are generally banned from all national parks.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest dunes in North America and one of the most complex dune systems in the world. As part of their research and monitoring work, the park’s staff must track how the dunes shift from year to year. But because it is federally designated wilderness area, vehicles are not allowed to drive on the dunes. Any ground measurements must be done entirely on foot, and with the highest dune measuring 755 feet tall, a full ground survey of the sand-packed area is next to impossible. Drone mapping, integrated with civil engineering software, produces accurate geospatial mapping of the sand dunes and provides researchers with high-quality data sets.
Getting permission to fly was impressive enough, then she follows it with an impressive flight plan.
The Great Sand Dunes flyover happened on a single day, October 19, 2016. The drone took high-resolution images of 1 square mile of the park centered around the Star Dune (pictured above), which is the tallest dune in North America, at 750 feet tall.
Great work and thanks for being an inspiration to not just the women in the industry, but for us all.
If you are a woman and have been considering a future in drones, you aren’t alone, Mary is a great example of where you can get with hard work and dedication. Take the first step by enrolling in a drone course at Drone Universities.