“From my very first childhood memories, I remember two things—going to the park with my grandfather and going to my small town airport with my dad every Sunday, just to watch airplanes take off and land.”
Drones are fascinating gadgets and are becoming popular across different industries like defence, research, travel and photography, to name a few. With consumer adoption expanding and commercial applications growing, the drone industry is on the verge of a revolution, and Sonal Baid, an aerospace engineer from Indore, is right at the forefront.
In recognition of the women who have helped make a meaningful contribution to the drone industry, the Women And Drones group, in partnership with Delair, GLOBHE and Sundance Media Group, recently announced their ‘Women to Watch in UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) 2018’ list, and Sonal has become the first Indian to feature in it!
Speaking to the Times of India, Sonal said, “The unmanned vehicles industry has an immense potential and I see myself being a part of the revolution this technology is bringing to the world.
By being a part of the teams developing innovative products, I can help to shape this new and upcoming industry.”
Sonal’s fascination with flying machines started when she was a child. Speaking to The Drone Girl, she said, “From my very first childhood memories, I remember two things—going to the park with my grandfather and going to my small town airport with my dad every Sunday, just to watch airplanes take off and land. I have always been super excited about machines, especially flying machines.”
She pursued her graduation in Aeronautical Engineering from SVIT in Vasad, Gujarat and soon started working for TATA Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). From there, Sonal went on to work on a project for Airbus landing gear with Messier Bugatti Dowty furthering her knowledge and experience in the field of aerospace engineering.
She then moved to the US to complete her Masters in Technology Management and joined Kittyhawk, a San Francisco-based start-up which develops drones, as an intern. Today, Sonal leads the Strategic Operations & Product Management and hopes that her position will help her to bring more awareness about drones among the masses.
Sonal points out that the primary difference between industries in the two countries is that India is yet to emerge as a breeding ground for start-ups developing drones.
“There aren’t many start-ups in the aerospace industry in India. I worked with big corporations back home; and like the US, in India too, these big corporations follow a lot of hierarchy, and as a result, the growth is slower. I feel, there is not much of an impact on the culture in the industry based on the geography. It’s the start-up culture that is playing the major role in defining the industry,” she said.
We are all aware of the uses of drones in today’s world, and with each passing day, the field of operations is only increasing.
“In the last two years, there has been a significant jump in usage of drones in almost every sector,”
she told TOI, adding that “But not many know that drones are considered an aircraft, and they belong to the national airspace. Since almost everybody and anybody is using drones, the software that we have developed helps them understand how they should use drones, what are the weather conditions they should look for and what kind of special permissions, if any, are required for using them.”
Here is a TBI article about the new set of rules on the use of drones in India. Although Sonal is currently working in the US, let’s hope that she gets to bring her expertise and experience to develop the industry in India.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)