Today’s drones are reaching unparalleled heights of sophistication. Not only is the hardware getting smaller, better, and faster, but advanced autonomy is allowing flying robots to explore places and accomplish tasks we never dreamed possible. We can even send drones to map, analyze, and perform important tasks in dangerous environments that are otherwise inaccessible to humans. How cool is that?

However, the recent progress in the drone industry isn’t just technological–it’s also cultural. In my experience working on autonomous aerial drones for the mining sector, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of what it means to be breaking new ground from all angles (literally!). Not only am I seeking to create novel robotics capabilities in completely unfamiliar customer environments, but I’m learning to operate at the intersection of two traditionally male-dominated industries as a woman of color. Needless to say, mine has been a journey into all kinds of uncharted career territories.

My hope is that you walk away from this session with an appreciation for the current state of drone technology, including the latest achievements arising from the very bleeding edge of science and innovation. Moreover, I hope to shed light on the opportunities for women and people of color to get involved in this exciting, ever-evolving world, regardless of technical proficiency. Now, more than ever, the drone industry is in need of diverse skill sets, experiences, and backgrounds to help us conquer the next generation of challenges. All of us can play a role in driving the trend of inclusivity in the drone and technology workplace!