DRONELIFE Exclusive: Part of the Girls Can’t Drone Series.
Dyan Gibbens has a superhero’s resume. An Air Force Academy Graduate, she is a pilot and a former member of the Air Force Parachute Team. She flies drones. She has a Top Secret Clearance. She’s got an MBA and a list of academic awards and honors that add an alphabet of letters after her name. And as the CEO and founder of Trumbull Unmanned- one of the nation’s leading providers of drone services to the energy sector -Dyan has been named one of Fortune Magazine’s women shaping the drone industry and a CNBC up-and-comer CEO.
Dyan had an early start on the drone industry. Her father was with the FAA for over 40 years, which contributed to her desire to enter the military; there she was introduced to cruise missiles, a type of UAV. When she was no longer able to serve in the Air Force Reserves, she began supporting Air Force One and Global Hawk UAS in engineering and logistics; it was the closest thing to serving, she explains. Her PhD work in aspects of UAV integration – and the fact that she’s a native Texan – led her to providing drone services to the energy sector. “I am a Texan… I love Texas, and I love what I do,” says Dyan.
Trumbull Unmanned now serves some of the largest oil companies in the world, mapping, monitoring,
and inspecting critical infrastructure. It’s an impressive success story for anyone; when asked about how being a woman has influenced her career, Dyan answers lightly: “I want to be a leader in the industry, and I happen to be a woman – that’s how I see it,” she says. ““I aim to serve as an example for aspiring engineers – young girls and boys.”
She takes being a role model seriously. In what she describes as one of her favorite projects, Trumbull Unmanned has partnered with BP and Microsoft to hold a summer drone camp at Rice University for sixth, seventh and eight graders – the camp is free to attend for those accepted into the program. Dyan flies drone with her own kids too: “We have a lot of drones around the house – we fly with different AMA RC flying clubs and at friends’ ranches for fun.” she says.
Asked to recall the most exciting drone story from her working life, Dyan laughs. “What’s good about drones is that they are supposed to be uneventful stories,” she says, commenting that drones are supposed to perform tasks “better, safer, faster.” But as the industry grows, she finds their applications always expanding: recently the company has had the opportunity to do exciting environmental work, like a project monitoring whales on the Pacific coast. “I love supporting research,” says Dyan.
While women are still a minority in the drone industry, Dyan is enthusiastic about the opportunities. “Though it has not been easy, and there are still many challenges to overcome, I love where I am right now,” she says, and points out that the presence of women in the industry is growing. “It’s great to see the momentum,” she says. “We just keep gaining in numbers.”
To young women – or anyone – interested in joining the industry, Dyan is characteristically straightforward: “Just start. Ask questions. Don’t give up.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.