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Pilot Spotlight: Interview with Olive Sauder

Company: Location: Gloucester, MA

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Olive Sauder, and I live in Gloucester, Massachusetts. I am a ninth-grader at The Waring School in Beverly. I have always wanted to be an engineer, and have been fascinated with how things work. Drones were something I always puzzled over and wanted to figure out. I got into flying drones when my Dad got one for work. I've been flying it ever since. Currently, I have been selling prints of my photos but hope to get as involved as I can in the drone industry.

What inspired you to begin flying drones, and what made you want to enter the industry as a drone pilot?

I've always thought flying was super cool, so I started saving up for a cheap drone that I could crash, but I would at least learn how to fly. I lost connection of that cheap drone, and it flew out to sea, but I got pretty good at flying it. I then started saving up for a DJI Spark because it was on the cheaper side of a nice drone. My family was going on a service trip in Puerto Rico later that year, and my Dad decided to get a drone for his project. I flew the drone to help my Dad with the project and have flown it ever since. I slowly realized that flying the drone was one of my favorite things to do. It cleared my mind and provided so much joy for me.

I made a website to share my work and then people started asking if they could buy prints of my pictures. When shooting an artist in residency for fun, I shared photos I took of the place with them, and they asked to use them for a publication. I realized that people really valued what I was doing, and I began to fly a lot more. I now sell my photos on my website on the side. Drones have taught me so much about myself and the beauty around me. I think that everyone should experience the feeling you get when you can suddenly see from above.

What were you doing before you started flying drones, and what made you make the transition?

I have been on a robotics team for a couple of years, and drones always looked like a genius mechanical invention to me. I have always wanted to take one apart and understand it, so I think curiosity was a big part of why I wanted to fly a drone so bad. I had played with toy drones before, but they always broke, and I was completely unaware of the drone industry for a while. I love photography, but never got really into it. When I realized you could combine photos with a drone, I was hooked.

What drone are you currently flying, and what drone accessories do you love?

I fly a DJI Mavic Air. My favorite accessory is a Go-Pro Case. It keeps the drone safe, and you can bring it everywhere. It is small and organizes all the drone pieces inside. It also allows you to carry all your charging equipment, so you can plug in the batteries anywhere.

What is your favorite feature on your drone and why?

I think that my favorite feature is Come Back Home. It allows me to fly farther away from myself with the comfort that If something happens the drone can come back to its home point.

What drone images are you most proud of and why?

I think that I am most proud of my photos of the salt marshes. This is because it is impossible to see the expanse of the marshes from the ground. It makes me feel like I am providing something that is unique and unknown to so many people.

Have you learned any valuable lessons from being in the drone industry that you can share with our female drone community?

I think that one of the big things to accept is that you don't know when you will get your next best picture. You just have to have fun with it, and when you get a nice shot be thankful. Also, it’s always important to be confident with yourself. Drone pictures can look intimidating by how high up they are. Everyone has their own style, and you don't have to go up 1,000 feet to get a good picture.

Whether it's from a creative, commercial or humanitarian perspective, tell us about your most memorable drone flight you have piloted thus far.

My most memorable flight was the first time I crashed an expensive drone. I was filming my brother skiing, so I was flying really fast so that I could keep him in the shot. This means that I was in sport mode. When you are in sport mode, all the sensors that keep you from crashing the drone are disabled. I did not know this at the time.

I was so caught up with filming that I didn't notice a tree limb that was sticking out over the trail. I hit it and the drone went down snapping off its back left arm. I was devastated, but after looking into the crash more, I realized that I could probably fix it. With advice and help from a lot of other people, I managed to solder on a new arm. Overall, this was a sad experience, but looking back on it, I really learned a lot.

What would you say to women and girls about the drone industry to spark their interest in getting involved?

I would say that if you love nature and our earth, drones will allow you to see it in a completely different way that makes you feel like you can fly. Drones have allowed me to look at some of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I also think that we need more girls in Tech and STEM. Even personally, I don't know any other girls who fly drones, and I wish I did. Knowing more women who were passionate about flying would make so many others want to fly.

What excites you most about more women joining the drone industry?

I think that this is pretty obvious but having more females in the industry can change so much. It will provide different perspectives and styles that we are not seeing right now. It will show equality in an industry that is changing and evolving so fast.

Do you have any drone tips & tricks you can share with our audience?


1) Whenever you are up high, no matter what you are taking a picture of, you should spin around 360 degrees. You will find a lot of cool things that you weren't even looking for.

2) Sometimes it takes a long time for your drone and remote to connect. Here is a way to make them connect instantly:

  • Turn on the drone and remote and let them both sit for a couple of seconds.

  • Plug your phone into the remote.

  • Go into your DJI app and it should instantly ( without you touching anything ) go into the drone's camera view.

What's the best way for our readers to get in touch with you?

Through the Contact page on my website:

Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Spread the word about drones!


Olive is currently a ninth-grade student at Waring School in Beverly, MA. She is involved with First Lego League and the RC Plane Flight Club. She has been flying drones for a little over a year, and made her website as a project for fun. She has now started selling prints of her photos on her website.

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