Kat James: how this drone data analyst is using #dronesforgood

Kat James is a drone and data specialist based in Nairobi, Kenya. She has worked in global health for over a decade — but recently, her work has brought her into the drone world.

Kat is the founder of Four Hundred Feet, a drone and data consultancy that helps researchers, NGOs, and social good organizations design and implement drone programs to address pressing needs in global health, the environment, and humanitarian efforts.

Her most recent project is creating the 2024 Drones for Good Guide. The Drones for Good Guide is a tool for anyone looking to navigate the #dronesforgood ecosystem. (Download the guide here!)

Kat’s goal was to create an industry resource that curates the best toolkits and webinars while highlighting companies and organizations using drones for good.

We here at Drone Girl spoke with Kat James to discuss Four Hundred Feet, her Drones for Good Guide, and all things drones:

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Caroline Dobrez: What is Four Hundred Feet?

Kat James: Four Hundred Feet is a drone and data consultancy based in Nairobi, Kenya. We primarily work with researchers, NGOs, and social good organizations that want to leverage drone technology.

Kat JamesKat James

Caroline Dobrez: You do a lot! So, what does a day in life look like for you?

Kat James: I’m passionate about ecosystem building. In the drone industry right now, there have been a lot of pilot programs showing what drones can do in terms of drones for good. But adoption is still pretty low. So, I do a lot of activities to combat that. In addition to working with my various clients on projects, I also create industry resources. I share educational content on LinkedIn. Right now, I’m doing work to help improve drone regulations on the African continent to be able to increase the adoption of drone technology.

Caroline Dobrez: Amazing! Can you tell me more about the regulation work you’re doing in Africa?

Kat James: I’m working with the Drones Doing Good Alliance on a project called Wakanda Beyond. We’re collaborating with nine civil aviation authorities in Africa to design future-fit drone regulations. The goal is to create an enabling environment for the drone industry while ensuring safety and security. We’re also running a drone business booster to help operators run sustainable drone businesses.

Caroline Dobrez: How did you get the idea to create Drones for Good guide, and how has it grown?

Kat James: When I first entered the drone industry, I recognized that there were numerous applications of drones for good in various sectors, but they seemed pretty siloed. There were amazing advancements in medical drone delivery, global health, reforestation, and wildlife conservation. However, there wasn’t much cross-collaboration between these sectors.

As I started researching and trying to learn more about where I might want to work, I began doing deep dives into different drones for good sectors on LinkedIn. I have been doing this for about two and a half years now. Over time, it has evolved, and there has been a huge interest from different corners of the industry in learning about the various drones for good applications in other sectors, from health to addressing climate change, and more. From there, I started putting the guide together. 

Caroline Dobrez: What are some of the topics covered in the Drone for Good guide?

Kat James: The guide covers how drones are used for disaster management, medical delivery, precision agriculture, wildfire management, and conservation, among others. There are 15 different verticals addressed.

Caroline Dobrez: Was there anything that surprised you while creating the guide?

Kat James: I was surprised by how much activity is happening in these areas and how siloed they are. Many projects were reinventing the wheel. I hope the guide helps people build off the learning of others and solve new challenges.

Caroline Dobrez: What impact has the guide had so far?

Kat James: We had over a thousand downloads in the first 24 hours. People have found new collaborators, tools, and job opportunities. It’s exciting to see how it’s helping people apply their technical skills to social impact.

Caroline Dobrez: What is your ultimate hope for the guide and drones for good in general?

Kat James: I hope the guide helps increase collaboration and adoption of drone technology at scale. Moving beyond the pilot project stage to full-scale adoption can significantly increase the impact of drone technology.

Caroline Dobrez: You’ve had such a huge impact on drones in the NGO space. What advice do you have for women looking to enter the drone industry?

Kat James: Get out there, talk to people, find a community, and seek mentorship. Also, there are many opportunities beyond being a drone pilot. Communities like Women in Drones are incredibly supportive.

You can connect with Kat James via LinkedIn, to learn more about #dronesforgood or sign up for her weekly mailing list here.

If you know any great drone girls who deserve a profile (including yourself!) contact us here. 

Kat JamesKat James
Kat James hosts meet-ups for women working in the drone industry in Kenya

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