We sat down with Georgia Silva, Helen Miller and Kate Henley, Assistant Engineers in Sensat’s Data Operations team, to give a snapshot insight into their experiences as female drone pilots and what it is like to be in the Data Operations team at Sensat.
What does it mean to be in Data Operations at Sensat?
At Sensat our Data Operations team handles the capturing and processing of project data which can then be visualised in our next-generation digital twin platform. Our team goes out onsite not only using drones, but also other forms of data capture technology to scan environments. Day-to-day jobs include flight planning, flying drones, processing data, but also liaising with clients, and the aviation authorities to conduct safe flights.
The Data Operations team has grown over threefold in the past year and now includes both a North and South team of drone pilots, helping us minimise travel and reduce our carbon emissions as we grow.
What do you enjoy about being a Sensat pilot?
Georgia: I think what is great about being a Sensat drone pilot is the diversity of the job—each day can really vary. One day we’ll be out in the field flying in Scotland over some amazing landscapes deep in the countryside or on a construction site, and the next we might be back in the office planning our next flight and liaising with clients. From our location to the project we are working on, no day is the same, which is what I enjoy about being an Assistant Engineer.
Kate: The role is very dynamic, you never quite know where you are going to be. Each project is an adventure and being in the data operations team really allows me to have that variety in my week—it is no regular nine-to-five desk job that is for sure! As Assistant Engineers we are not only flying drones, there is so much more to it which I think is incredibly interesting. Some days we will be in the office or working from home, and others we might be up at the crack of dawn to capture data before a flight path opens. At Sensat, ‘Grit’ is one of our pillar values, and I think this is exercised every day. Being a Sensat drone pilot requires determination, passion and resilience to succeed, come rain or shine, out on site!
What are your experiences as a female drone pilot?
Helen: I love working with an inspiring team, especially the team of inspiring women which I am surrounded by every day at Sensat. I also love being a female drone pilot as we’re kind of debunking the stereotype—we are females working on construction projects, drone pilots, and working in a technology startup. What I appreciate the most is that, although in the industry being a female tends to be the minority, within Sensat’s drone pilots we make up a good weighting in comparison to the industry statistics.
Last month Helen and Georgia carried out Sensat’s first all-female drone flight where they travelled to Peterhead in Scotland to scan an undersea cable between Peterhead and Drax. It is estimated that just 4 per cent of drone pilots in the UK are female, and Sensat are thrilled to have Georgia, Helen, Kate, as well as Charlotte, Ella and Lauren, representing Sensat’s female Data Operations team. This brings the team to 40 per cent female, which is a number we look to continually improve as we seek to reflect the broader UK population in our teams and hope to achieve gender parity. We understand that building an inclusive culture is critical to making Sensat a place where everyone feels valued, and every single Sensateer has a role to play concerning this environment. So, at Sensat we are proud to welcome diversity, equality and inclusion, across race, gender, age, religion, identity, and experience and are committed to being an equal opportunity employer.
Georgia: It is great seeing more and more women out on the construction site as well. Even over the past six months, I have noticed more women on projects and onsite. The diversity of construction and tech has slowly been improving, not only in terms of gender diversity, but all forms of diversity which I think is an important step forwards for industries that are constructing and delivering products and services which are to be used by all people from all walks of life.
What advice would you give to others who are interested in joining Sensat’s Data Operations team?
Helen: If I were to give anyone considering being a Sensat drone pilot advice, I would say go for it! It is the perfect position if you want to be out in the field and enjoy being outdoors. When I first told my friends and family about becoming an Assistant Engineer lots of them didn’t expect that this is what I would be doing. However, when I explain what I do and about Sensat’s mission, to make construction more sustainable, I think that brings a whole other dimension to the job that is really important to me.
Georgia: If you are looking for a role that delivers responsibility from early on then being a Data Operations Assistant Engineer delivers that. I have only been with Sensat for 8 months and I have already been given the opportunity to manage projects and liaise with clients which I enjoy. Also, in collecting data we see projects from start to finish which I think makes it a hugely rewarding experience.
Kate: I would definitely recommend the role to anyone interested. The learning opportunities in this role are great—I’ve learned so much about things I didn’t even know I was interested in! Having come from a Geography course that involved GIS processing and a lot of data analysis, this has really helped to support me in my role at Sensat and I have been glad to be able to put this all to good use.