Isabelle Nyroth, and Swedish transplant living and working in Colorado, is living the dream, doing what so many of us only wish we could do – flying drones for a living. Isabelle shares with Droneblog about how she got started and what it’s like to work for Unmanned Experts, a Colorado based commercial UAV company.
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I’m a 22 year old girl from the small town of Visby on the Swedish island Gotland. I grew up on a small RC field watching my father fly model airplanes every day. The smell of nitro burning and the sound of propellers spinning while aircrafts take off into the air to make loops and twists in the sky was far more exciting to me than going to the stables with my mother. When I was 4, my father built me a Pippi Longstocking themed delta-wing aircraft that I loved watching soar in the sky.
Since my father started working for various UAV companies that took my family all over the United States and Europe throughout my entire childhood, I’ve developed a special love for travel, photography and aviation. I spent my years after high school working as VIP Nanny for the wonderful Habsburg family in Vienna, then working all angles of the gastronomy circus from doing dishes and waitressing Irish pubs to managing a Thai restaurant. I helped start the Zuckerlwerkstatt Wien with my best friend – the sweet heavenly candy shop where we spent hours and hours making, packing, and selling handmade lollipops and candy. I was living the life, but I always felt that I could do more, challenge myself, travel the road less taken…. And so I quit that life and took a chance at flying drones in the USA.
How did you get started in the drone industry?
Being happy but restless, I was seeking new adventures. The adventures came in the most unexpected way; I was a newbie on LinkedIn when I got in touch with Unmanned Experts. The next thing I know I’m getting spooled up on current UAV systems and I’m on the next flight to Colorado where I’ll be spending my entire Summer as an intern. Goodbye Riesling by the Danube, and hello Fat Tires in the Rockies. I spent that summer alongside a brilliant team, flying drones with law enforcement, spreading the word on how drones can benefit our lives. I didn’t want to return back home.
Tell us about Unmanned Experts, what it is, and your role there. How did you get started there?
Unmanned Experts is a Colorado based company composed of a group of people that carry expertise in several areas. Together we combine our expertise to offer training, consultancy, and managed services. We can do a job for you, train you to do it, or advise you how to do it successfully. We know that this industry will create a lot of opportunities for people, and we want to make sure that the positive outlook on drones keeps shining through the blur of negative drone-media that we often see. With drones increasing in popularity and drone pilots popping up around every corner, our main focus is to ensure that behind every drone is a safe and educated pilot.
As senior marketing director, I’m always trying to spread the word of who we are. I’m also out in the field flying our aircrafts, operating the camera, and teaching our multirotor courses. (Next one coming up will be held in Sweden this May! So excited.)
What’s your favorite type of project and why?
The best projects are the ones that take us to new places and introduce us to inspiring people all over the world. Connecting people with technology in order to help make their lives just a bit easier is always a pleasure.
What project that you have worked on are you most proud of?
We’ve had so many great projects like working with ranchers down in southern Texas, using drones in research with the NIJ on forensic traffic accident reconstruction, and filming concerts for rockstars. I’m honestly the most proud of our training courses. We’ve been able to help many people starting out with their drones on how to avoid expensive mistakes and crashes and how to fly with confidence, and tie together the community. One of our former students and a mentor of mine, Ronald Cox, told me “ You have to know what you think you know.”, and that applies to being a drone pilot. You may think you know how to fly and capture great footage, but that may not always be the case, and that’s where we can help out. We will make sure you know what you think you know.
What type of drones and gear are you flying?
Our fleet consists of a wide variety of drones ranging from DJI Phantoms to the much more durable Aeryon Sky Rangers. We know the difference between a $1000 aircraft, versus a $120,000 aircraft. We have standard helis, fixed wings, and a couple heavy-lift copters too, but the Aeryon Sky Ranger is a true hero. It flies great, it’s reliable, takes on strong winds through all weather conditions without a problem and it flies significantly longer than any other aircraft.
What is your favorite drone to fly and why?
My favorite drone to fly depends on what I’m trying to accomplish. A Phantom is a fun grab-n-go quadcopter for many occasions, the Sky Ranger always gets the job done right, but taking off with a massive copter like an Aerigon x12 is a whole different thrill.
What are some of the differences in regulations between Sweden and the US?
The main difference in regulations between the US and Sweden in flying commercially is that Sweden has established regulations and has a functioning system, whereas in the US it’s not quite as simple for anyone to just fill out a form, pay a fee, and be good to go once approved. Either way, everyone is complaining and screaming for drone justice.
There is always a debate on privacy concerns and safety no matter where in the world you are, and quite frankly I don’t think anybody has the golden answer at the moment to make everybody happy. Unfortunately, hobbyists get caught between the fun of flying and legalities because there is a bit of a gray zone to sort out hobbyists from strictly commercial pilots.
What advice would you give to others who want to get started flying drones (for work or pleasure)?
To anyone looking to get started in this industry, I suggest to get hands on practice, a basic ground knowledge, and get involved with a company that is already established. You can learn so much from other people, and it is better to work on a team than getting into this on your own. It’s not a place to play it safe, because we are all pioneers. There is so much room for new discovery and creation. Join a multirotor class and get to know other people that share your common interest. There are a few options out there for courses (obviously if you join one hosted by Unmanned Experts you’ll have so much fun with us you won’t want to leave!), but make sure you find a good source of education that will allow you to feel confident in what you’re doing.
What advances in drone technology are you excited about?
Drones are taking heavier payloads, longer flight times and becoming more available to anyone, but what I’m really excited about is seeing the niche applications in where drones can be saving lives and assisting in dangerous environments. I’m eager to see where we will stand in the next decade.
Thank you so much for your insights. Is there anything else that we haven’t touched on that you would like to share?
As a young woman in a new town, far away from family and friends, working hard every day in a male-dominated field is not always a waltz on fluffy clouds, and it’s sometimes hard to keep my head in the game. We all face daily challenges, but I’m so grateful to be here and I wish that more people took the chance to go somewhere and try something different.
People are often surprised that a young woman like me flies drones for a living, but fact is that there are hundreds of us ladies out there flying everyday. Thanks to Rhianna Lakin who started the Amelia Dronehart group, we all have a place to turn for support and great advice from women all over the world that are flying RC aircrafts. Dream big, and live your dream, because everything is possible.
Follow Isabelle Nyroth:
Follow Unmanned Experts:
- Handmade Drone Ornament - July 15, 2019
- Data Visualization and Analytics: Q&A with Jan Wouter Kruyt of Propeller Aero - November 7, 2018
- End-to-End Drone Mapping Solutions – Q&A on eBee X and ANAFI Work - October 29, 2018
- 3D Sensing Solutions – Q&A with Cepton Technologies - October 26, 2018
- Would You Rather: Race a Car or Race a Drone - July 18, 2018