Brooke Tapsall: An Innovator in the Drone Industry

Women in Tech

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After many years working in science and remote sensing fields, Brooke decided to take a big step in a forward direction to create real value for the future UAS industry. Starting her first company AGICS, from which stemmed DroneALERT, she is enabling drone technology to benefit the society as a whole and make the world better. Brooke Tapsall is the Founder and CEO of DroneALERT focused on drone counter-UAV, security, drone law, and CEO of AGICS focused on drone services and products, R&D, spatial science consultancy and expert consultancy.

AGICS, founded in 2010, has offices in Estonia and Australia. DroneALERT formed in 2015 when the drone industry was reeling in drone regulations and the ‘boom’ of public/commercial drone use. The idea of DroneALERT was not perceived instantaneously, though all could see the potential, organizations still considered it as a “no need” service as the counter UAV aspect wasn’t fully explored. Needless to say, they know now that Brooke had actually hit on an idea that is today shaping the future of drone security.

"Know your limits; push them or back away. Make mistakes; learn from them and grow.”

DroneALERT: Keep the skies safe

The DroneALERT platform has the power to self-regulate the drone industry while contributing to improving drone, aviation, and public safety and education. DroneALERT is a global rapid drone reporting system that can be completed in near real time using four easy steps on a mobile device. It encourages ‘drone detectives’ (anyone!) to report bad or dangerous drone activity simply by using photos, videos, and geo-locations. The system then turns gathered information into valuable evidence-based Drone Incident Report (DIR), which can be given to authorities to help them investigate drone incidents. 

Even so, as a women entrepreneur working in a male-dominated industry, doing well can present some unique challenges. “It is always interesting working in a male-dominated field. I have my entire career. It provided challenges and, at times, frustrations as one does need to expend more effort to gain some ‘acknowledgment’. Many times, it can be incredulousness on the side of the other person that you do what they do” says Tapsall. She recounts several occurrences when at exhibitions the (male) CTO, attending events with her, is approached more and is automatically assumed to be the CEO. Though she chuckles, he is a good sport and feels overwhelmed to let stunned individuals know — ‘Hey, not me! She’s the CEO and its all her idea’. “It’s not a single incident, however; this culture will always be present, even though there are great moves to show how women in the drone industry and at executive levels excel,” says Tapsall. Although there are such encounters in the profession, Brooke points out male colleagues within the industry are very supportive to women in the industry and are also keen in actively promoting woman in executive, entrepreneur or growing roles. “Glass ceilings are a thing of the past, many women have proven this to be the case,” claims Tapsall. Clearly, when this culture-shift will be all present it will open up equal opportunities’ for women everywhere, help them achieve leadership roles and ultimately become successful. Isn’t it? “Only an individual can measure their own success,” elucidates Tapsall sharing how she measures success. “Looking to others may limit you. We may feel we have not achieved much when to others we have conquered the world. Conversely, we have reached great achievements only to have another undermine it. In this regard, we should be kind and realistic to ourselves; set goals which are reachable, and celebrate all achievements, large and small, as each requires effort. Know your limits; push them or back away. Make mistakes; learn from them and grow.”

Brooke Tapsall, Founder & CEO, DroneAlert

At the same time stress is an inevitable part of professional life. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can be harmful to both physical and emotional health. “Learning what the signs of burnout are for you is crucial, as, most times one is ‘burning out’ and not even realizing it,” shares Tapsall. “Know your limits and don’t be afraid to stand firm and back away when you’ve reached them. I’ve learned that no job is worth your physical and mental health. If these are affected by excess stress, one has to really assess the element(s) contributing and change them.” Thus, downtime is very important. Being an Australian and as a very active person, Brooke loves the outdoor lifestyle and activities. To her being outside is rejuvenating. She enjoys sporty pursuits such as sailing, skiing, hiking, swimming, running, but also enjoys the more relaxed pace of gardening and even finds just working outside amusing.

Go for it!

Brooke admits not having a dedicated mentor throughout her career. So she eventually made it to here without this element. Off course it has been a learning experience, with ups and downs, that perhaps would have been different and beneficial if she had a mentor. This is why, she gives advice and mentoring to others and advocates good professional networks. As a ‘Woman to Watch in UAS’ honoree, which is a global selection process to find women in the drone industry who are making an impact has opened to her, and other women in similar situations networks to ensure support, giving encouragement, listening and ‘checking in’ on each other. She suggests for expanding, “If you want to expand your network and company, be sure to look online for all the options. There are many events, accelerators, networks and pitching opportunities available, and one needs to look at many to see which are suitable for their company direction”. As for career-minded women leaders, she encourages them to keep following their instincts, but also stresses on the need to support women in their efforts while also ensuring that there are frameworks in place to retain the top female talent. “I don’t think there is a different strategy for men or women to achieve well in their career and organization. Each has to work hard to get to where they want to go. If the organization has an equal opportunity culture, then women can achieve a prominent role,” says Tapsall. 

Off course, there have been massive strides towards gender inclusivity. And the advantage is obvious: “Women a generation before me fought hard to gain recognition for their achievements which have benefited my generation. The culture of women leaders, upper management and entrepreneurs are changing and being actively encouraged, as such, the next generation can benefit from this advancing cultural attitude.” So, if you are a woman interested in a leadership position, her advice is to “go for it!” While the key recommendations are: Pursue your dream, you never know until you try; know your limits and when to walk away; learn that business can be ruthless; and yes, celebrate your achievements. 

Uniquely, she says DroneALERT links aviation sectors, security agencies, and the public in a single, globally reaching system. By linking these, and more, key actors in the drone, civil and aviation security and management domains, has the huge potential to contribute to improved and informed drone management, regulations, drone incident mitigation and planning which all increases aviation and civil safety. This, she hopes, will be her legacy. She is indeed, creating an exciting future!

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