Here’s what happened at the 2023 Emerging Aviation Technologies Thought Leaders’ Summit

This day last week, I was standing on a stage at CES. That’s short for the Consumer Electronics Show, which is the largest trade show in the world, held annually in Las Vegas.

I was there to claim what has been an absolute honor — an inaugural spot in the Women in Emerging Aviation Technologies Hall of Fame. I wrote extensively about what this award means to me here — and why it’s just as much an award with your name on it as mine.

Sally French, The Drone Girl, and Sharon Rossmark, founder of Women and Drones.

But because CES is a trade-only event and is not open to the general public, many folks who might have wanted to attend otherwise could not. Thus, I’m bringing you the highlights right here.

Next week, I’ll give you a glimpse at some of the most fun non-drone encounters I had at CES. But for today, I wanted to focus on the real reason I came (and the most inspirational, standout component of the whole trip): the 2023 Emerging Aviation Technologies Thought Leaders’ Summit.

The summit kicked off on Thursday, Jan. 5 with a talk run by MatrixSpace Chief Revenue Officer Lori DeMatteis discussing where we are now, and what the chart for the future is set to look like. Other Thursday discussion topics included BVLOS and a talk on drone sports featuring Electric Flying Car Racing Pilot Lexie Janson and Drone Soccer’s National Engagement Strategy Chair, Dr. Renee Welch.

Unfortunately I didn’t arrive in Vegas until Friday, but I still got to experience plenty of good stuff. I landed at the airport, dropped off my bag and took the shuttle to the Las Vegas Convention Center, where the first item on my agenda was attending the 3 p.m. Women in Emerging Aviation Technologies Awards ceremony. 

The Autel booth at CES.

But because I had some time, I took a quick browse of the booths. I have spidey senses for drones because — even sans map — the Autel booth was one of the first ones I found.

I found a few other smaller companies that I’d never heard of, but that made drones.

The time flew by and I then headed to the award ceremony, which is where the magic really happened. The ceremony was held in one of the Las Vegas Convention Center ballrooms, and it was brimming with the top people in drones — folks from the FAA, from NASA, folks who are entrepreneurs, scientists and industry celebrities. And most of those people were women.

Hitomi Uematsu, Co-founder of SKYMAGIC, and Sally French, The Drone Girl.

Prior to last week’s 2023 Emerging Aviation Technologies Thought Leaders’ Summit, I had never been in a room with so many brilliant, female minds focused on the drone industry. Many of those minds received well-deserved recognition. There were a slew of awards dole out, including the annual Women to Watch winners and the businesses being recognized in the Top Companies for Women awards. The ceremony culminated with the naming of the first-ever Hall of Fame inductees.

And after the awards were given out and many photos were taken, we all headed over for a reception. There, I got to reunite with some old friends, and meet plenty of new ones. What’s amazing when you put so many passionate, female dronies in a room is the quality of conversations you had.

Business whiz Fiona Lake told me why she doesn’t bother with stock photography. Joanna Steidle of Hamptons Drone Images told me why one of her top camera drones is a semi-dark horse in the drone photography world, the DJI Avata. NASA’s April Lanotte told me about her ambitions to make aerospace science more accessible to all educators and students. Hitomi Uematsu gave me the scoop on her drone light shows (her company, SKYMAGIC, ran the world cup drone light shows).

Duy Tran (right), Tracy Lamb (center) and Sally French, The Drone Girl

Ideas were exchanged, and new ones were generated. In this place, the dialogue was genuine. The spirit was on fire. And don’t worry — I’ll share their stories with you on my site soon.

The next day, we headed to a suite to record video clips for what could turn into a longer documentary about the drone industry. I heard from many of the prior night’s honorees, including NASA Ames Research Center Director of Aeronautics Huy Tran discussing her upbringing in Vietnam and escape via boat after the fall of Saigon, as well as Joanna Steidle talking about what she looks for in her art (and what qualities make it stand out from all the other aerial images).

I spoke about how I got into drones (which as you likely know was by accident in college), which you can see a clip of here:

I share how my blog started:

Dished my thoughts on communication skills:

And looked toward the future:

And while I didn’t fly out until Sunday (and I spent that day doing plenty of great Vegas things, like seeing the Bellagio and eating at Eataly), there is nothing else like the Emerging Aviation Technologies Summit. I wish you could be there — only to guaranteed walk away at least half as inspired as I did.

I’ve been to many tech conferences where I am the only female speaker, or one of just a handful of women in attendance. I am grateful for this past weekend’s summit for showing me that there is no shortage of brilliant women who can share big ideas. If you build it, they will come. That’s exactly what the Women and Drones Emerging Aviation Technologies Summit did.

If you’re interested in even more photos, check out my Instagram and Facebook pages.

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