By Austin Brown, FAA-licensed pilot and Co-Founder of Global Air Media and the Global Air Drone Academy
Every drone pilot sets out on their first flight on a mission, but sometimes the mission can change mid-flight. My business partner, Eno Umoh, and I had known each other since high school when we launched Global Air Media in 2015. Our first business plan spelled out a step-by-step guide to success in the drone industry.
When we began our business, we planned to capitalize on the sizable impacts drones have through cinematography, industrial inspection, disaster relief, and aerial mapping. Through diligence and hard work, all of our goals in all of those fields, safely and efficiently were realized with only minor turbulence along the way. As we experienced success, we saw an opportunity to make a much more profound impact on the lives of children in our community.
In 2016, we were presented with an opportunity to speak to a group of children in the Penn North neighborhood of Baltimore, Md. The group was part of Kid Safe Zone, an organization that provided a safe education experience for children in a neighborhood that captured national attention for civil unrest after Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody. The group of 10, mostly middle school and high school aged youth, welcomed us into their neighborhood, but were slightly reluctant to give their full attention to their new teachers.
Fortunately, we had drones on our side. The one thing we learned in our first camp at Kid Safe Zone was, when teaching kids, embrace creativity. We had a plan and a curriculum based on our own experience, videos we produced, and knowledge about the drone industry, but we had to translate that into an experience that was relatable to our students. So we did the one thing that every drone pilot wants to do — fly!
After we introduced ourselves and went through basic safety rules we took the kids out to fly; they were hooked and so were we. Our first camp was a resounding success that has led us to opportunities to teach individuals about drones all over the world.
Today, we run an organization called the Global Air Drone Academy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Our mission is to bridge the race and gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) education and careers. We accomplish our mission through creating fun and engaging activities that encourage kids to broaden their horizons.
Our program has been studied and proven to be effective at increasing STEAM interest and engagement among youth, validating our own hypothesis from the start: We’ve discovered that with exposure, you can illuminate a new pathway for their future.
After the initial opportunity to speak to kids in our own backyard in Baltimore City, we have grown an organization that has taught over 6,500 children around the globe about STEAM, entrepreneurship and drone safety. All of our Junior Pilots, as we call them, take tests and assessments throughout our program to make sure they are proficient in drone safety and entrepreneurship when they leave. We also teach our kids how to build drones, through our world renowned build-a-drone workshops in which many students take their drone home when the course is complete.
Along the way we have faced many challenges, be it developing our own curriculum, sourcing parts for our own drone kits, or launching our first product “Drone Camp-in-a-box,” but through relationships with various partners such as the FAA and the U.S. Commerce Department, we have been able to enhance our capabilities and reach more kids than we previously imagined.