Women to Watch

CES Highlights: Trailblazing Women and Companies in Tech

Sponsored by Women And Drones

2021 marked a milestone—the fifth Anniversary of the Women And Drones Women To Watch (WTW) Global UAS Awards, recognizing the women and companies making significant contributions in the unmanned and advanced air mobility industry. For the first time, the honorees were announced live, at CES 2022 in Las Vegas. Here’s what these inspirational women and businesses had to say about their achievements, their success secrets and what they intend to do to help shape the future of our community.

The Entrepreneur

Bronwyn Morgan, CEO and founder, Xeo Air and Airversity, Drone Pilot Academy + Consulting; CEO, MOUV UAM

Recipient of the Iris Automation Entrepreneurship Award, recognizing an individual woman innovator who has significantly impacted the UAS industry, and whose outstanding business acumen and innovative practices has led to the success of her company, projects or the efforts of others.

Commitment, tenacity and big ideas: these are the three pillars of entrepreneurial success, according to Bronwyn Morgan, a Part 107-certified drone pilot, FAA Safety Representative and FAA Drone Pro.

She should know. With more than 30 years of experience, including 16 at P&G and The Coca-Cola Company in strategy, sales and innovation, Morgan has become a serial entrepreneur. In the last few years, she founded three Atlanta-area companies and a non-profit: Xeo Air, Airversity Drone Pilot Academy and Consulting, MOUV UAM and Black Women in STEAM.

Her vision is to help build an aerial revolution through drones and AAM to bring people into the fourth Industrial Revolution with new skills in remote flight, remote sensing, AI, data science, engineering and autonomy.

Morgan is both humbled and excited to be recognized as a top entrepreneur in an industry where women are just beginning to make a mark. “I want to amplify the message that women like me are working on complex solutions with advanced technologies,” she explained. “I aspire to be a voice of motivation that highlights good ideas and opportunities to young girls, my peers and clients.”

The Educator

April Lanotte, STEM Integration Lead, NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate

Recipient of the Unmanned Safety Institute (USI) Education Award, recognizing an individual woman teacher or instructor who actively engages students with drones, shares the value of drones within curriculum, and develops drone programs, opportunities and other programs and provides professional development to others as an ambassador for drone and STEM education.

Children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. April Lanotte does just that as the STEM integration lead for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. She finds ways to inspire the future workforce by collaborating with various stakeholders to inject innovative aeronautics programs, projects and missions into K-12 STEM education.

Born and raised in the small town of Mars, Pennsylvania, Lanotte said that as a child, despite her interest in aviation and space, careers for girls in those fields seemed to be for “other people.” As she reflected, “I didn’t realize until years later that there were places and opportunities for everyone who wants to take part. I want to help others find that out much earlier, and help support their dreams to get there.” For the past 25 years, she has been helping others discover the joys of aviation.

Now a Part 107 pilot in Colorado Springs, she has developed a high school curriculum for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and has contributed content to the LEGO Space Challenge Activity Pack and Disney’s Youth Experiences in Science. She also co-created, and still oversees, Colorado’s Aerospace Frontiers Education Committee.

“To be recognized for my work in this field is humbling, and encourages me to do even more to support students and help them find the almost limitless possibilities in UAS and AAM.”

The Leader

Karen DiMeo, CEO and Founder, AERODiMEO

Recipient of The Sabrewing Aircraft Leadership Award, recognizing an individual woman who demonstrates an exceptional ability to motivate people or groups to achieve a common goal, including but not limited to: education, policy, research and development, innovation, business and humanitarian efforts.

Karen DiMeo has been a leading voice in drone policy for more than 30 years. During 27 years at the FAA, which culminated in her role as senior technical UAS advisor at the FAA’s Office of the Deputy Administrator, she provided technical expertise to support the oversight of UAS strategic plans. After this, she served as head of policy and government affairs at AiRXOS.

In 2018, DiMeo established AERODiMEO to deliver policy and research expertise around evolving UAS certification requirements, regulatory standards and policies. DiMeo believes demand for innovative drone and robotic solutions remains strong, and projects it will continue to grow as long as global regulators provide sufficient and timely enabling regulations.

“The uncertainty in the progress of the governing landscape remains a risk for many UAS businesses to become economically viable,” she noted from New Jersey. “This is why I focus on policy with my clients and encourage them to participate in the process. It is important they gain knowledge and understanding of the regulatory challenges and how the regulators work, so that they operate safely today, and best leverage future advancements as they unfold.”

Meanwhile, DiMeo plans to continue to advance the aviation industry, and its individuals. “It’s already my goal for 2022 to dedicate more time to being a mentor and to pay my good fortune forward.”

The Public Servant

Madison Jeffrey, Medical Drone Logistics, Swoop Aero

Recipient of The Skydio Public Safety/Service Award, recognizing an individual woman who serves the public in any capacity and epitomizes community involvement or betterment of service-oriented activities indicating commitment and sacrifice, including but not limited to: humanitarian efforts (drones for good), public policy, military/federal/law enforcement or public safety efforts.

From small-town girl to global logistics leader, Madison Jeffrey has come a long way from coastal Australia. Now she leads Swoop Aero’s flagship national medical logistics in the Southern Region of Malawi. The company ships critical medical supplies to more than 1.5 million people across the landlocked and difficult-to-reach areas of the Southeastern African country.

“I’m passionate about making an impact and proud to be part of a team that is transforming how the world moves essential supplies by making access to the skies seamless,” she explained.

Jeffrey views her role in helping to create this sustainable medical drone logistics network for remote communities in Malawi as her greatest achievement to date. “It is really something I’m so proud of—the team I have been blessed with and being able to see the real change in the way these health facilities operate on the ground is amazing,” she said.

She plans to continue her work in Africa with Swoop, a company she describes as “amazing to work for,” and one that aligns with her passion for drones, her morals and her values. “What I am doing brings me great joy!” she said. Jeffrey looks forward to 2022 and the additional  opportunities it promises to impact even more people for the better with the use of drones.

The Innovators

Global Aerial Management Group

Recipients of The Volatus Aerospace Innovation Team Award, recognizing a team, group, company, agency or organization in the drone ecosystem that actively encourages and inspires women to disrupt and innovate within the UAS industry.

If the pandemic has a silver lining, it’s that drones can help keep people safe and healthy and businesses open. That’s the light switch that flipped on the mind of Toni Drummond, founder and CEO of Global Aerial Management Group (GAMG).

Drummond created the Scottsdale, Arizona, company in 2020 to sustain the private jet aviation services and talent and production company she also manages, Nevada-based Prestige Air Group. To get entertainers back in action, she and an all-woman team created a jet-to-stage program that leverages both companies by providing sanitized private charter jets for transportation to and from events, and indoor drone-spraying sanitization services onsite.

GAMG’s drone disinfecting services really took off. In short order, it expanded from entertainment stadiums, arenas and venues to educational and other facilities.

The company’s road to achievement was difficult but fueled by determination and passion, according to the CEO. “It took a dream, a team effort and more than six months of research to get us where we are today,” she said.

The 100% female GAMG staff, all of whom come from male-dominated career fields, hopes that winning the innovation award will help normalize the presence of women in the UAS industry. GAMG plans to inspire others by leveraging its WTW recognition to fulfill its company goals: inspire, create, serve and educate.

The Drones-For-Gooders

Unmanned Systems Operations Group, Inc (USOG)

Recipients of the FoxFury Team Spotlight Award, recognizing a global co-ed team, group, company, agency or organization in the drone ecosystem whose overall work contributes to the positive public perception of drones (“drones for good”) while fostering a culture of female empowerment and inclusiveness where women are engaged in key roles on the team and/or in leadership positions.

Unmanned Systems Operations Group, Inc. (USOG), a service-disabled veteran and minority-owned logistics solutions company, has become a leading-edge provider of medical logistics solutions that specializes in drone transportation delivery across aerial, terrestrial and maritime applications.

Founder Pharns Genece, a former U.S. Air Force medevac and highly trained flight nurse certified to administer critical and emergency care for patients during flight rescue operations, built the San Diego-based company on the premise of “saving lives today with the technology of tomorrow.”

USOG has developed an industry-disrupting solution to advance the drone delivery sector. Dubbed the “Multi-Package Delivery System (MPDS),USOG’s logistics solution is the first in the industry that allows drone delivery platforms to deliver up to three packages to multiple locations at different delivery sites.

The MPDS is part of USOG’s all-inclusive, cloud-enabled, pay-as-you-go, fully-integrated, end-to-end unmanned systems platform. It aggregates drone mission-based software for aerial, terrestrial and maritime needs with mobile command centers, real-time tracking capabilities and user-friendly dashboards.

Current and future endeavors for USOG include more international collaborations and continued outreach to other drone-industry pioneers.

The Exemplars

Airspace Link

Recipients of the Women And Drones Diversity Exemplar Award, recognizing a company, agency or organization that “walks the talk” on diversity, equity and inclusion in the UAS/AAM industry by having significant diversity representation on their leadership team and/or proactive approaches to increase diversity across their team through proactive diversity recruiting, retention, training/education and workforce development programs.

Airspace Link integrates drones into the national airspace and into communities at scale through digital infrastructure, strategic partnerships and thought leadership, including in the area of industry diversity, equity and inclusion. The company walks the talk, with more than 50% of its executive team composed of women.

“For us, creating an inclusive culture where everyone can bring their whole selves to work has been key, President and CEO Michael Healander noted. Our diverse team is a differentiator for us and our work.”

That work includes creating a world where the safe integration of drones fuels human progress, advancing social equity, the environment and the economy. “Historically, advancements in technology are first available to the benefit of the wealthy. With the integration of drones, we have the opportunity to flip that script on that,” Healander said.

Healander touts the benefits of drones in reducing CO2 emissions, providing new manufacturing jobs and opportunities for a wide range of people to become drone pilots. He views the technology that Airspace Link provides as enabling these benefits by helping communities understand the safest places for drones to fly and how they can incorporate inclusive routes to maximize the accessibility of drone services. Healander: “Airspace Link is a part of the solution.”

Photos courtesy of Women And Drones.