Like many of us, Desiree (Desi) Ekstein started out as a hobbyist in the drone world. From there, her passion has evolved into a lucrative business. It also involves educational outreach to young people. Desi has mastered some of the more technical aspects of operating drones, including mapping and modeling. Overall, she’s an incredible advocate for women in drones. I met her at InterDrone, a few years back, and had the chance to catch up with her recently.

How did you get started with drones?

I started in 2012, for fun, with the interest of a “Flying camera.” I loved the uniqueness of the drones and the higher perspective they offered. I had a Parrot AR that I crashed and repaired frequently.

What is your favorite drone to operate?

I am a huge fan of DJI. There are several other great platforms that I enjoy and I am always looking for options to expand my horizons, but I have a fleet of DJI products that are always faithful.

What makes up most of your drone business?

Originally when I started, it was the higher perspective of aerial videography. As the industry evolved, I evolved with it. I included mapping, modeling, and whatever I could to make me money. Over the past several years I have directed my attention to safety and education. I’ve become an UAS adjunct instructor at MiraCosta College, Lead FAASTeam Representative DronePro, AUVSI TOP Level 3 pilot, and AUVSI Level 2 Instructor.

Which type of drone work do you find most rewarding?

Personally, I absolutely love documenting past history with 3D models. The past needs to be preserved. 3D models are an exciting way to allow documentation of what might be forgotten or destroyed through time.

I also enjoy doing public outreach and helping others develop safety standards whether it is for STEM or to inspire others to get started in the industry.

You’re one of the women lifting up others in this male-dominated industry. Who are you most impressed with at the moment? Who deserves recognition and why?

I am surrounded by amazing ladies that do so much for this industry. There are so many ladies that are intelligent, gifted, inspiring and kind hearted. They pour out their selflessness daily.

If I have to give one name it would be Sharon Rossmark, CEO of Women and Drones. I met her several years ago at InterDrone and she has been a pillar in the industry for promoting women. She has elevated the recognition and equality of women in this industry through her platform.

You’ve been to several InterDrone conferences, I remember meeting you at the Women in Drones luncheon. In your opinion, what stands out about the conference?

Yes, that is where we met. I enjoy having the opportunity to make connections, and renew connections in the industry. InterDrone was the first drone conference I went to, and the first Women in Drones luncheon. I was completely inspired by all the accomplished women in the room! I am very glad to see InterDrone support women in the industry. Also, I enjoyed the educational sessions that were offered at the 2019 conference.

Any advice you have for people starting out in this industry?

I have to promote safety. I recommend everyone that starts out get training and education. Whether you fly recreational or for commercial purposes, safety is vital. Get connected and learn how to be a responsible pilot.

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