Companies recognize the need for diversity in the drone industry. In this article, Dawn Zoldi of the Drones at Dawn Podcast and P3Tech Consulting interviews Jason San Souci about the importance of neurodiversity in the workplace.
Neurodiversity is a Super Power Elevating Drone Business!
By: Guest Author, Dawn Zoldi
Diversity makes companies more profitable. Research has proven this. However, when most people think of the term “diversity,” they are more likely to think of traditional classes that are protected by law, such as race, gender, or religion. Diversity is much more expansive. It encompasses neurodiversity, a term that summarizes differences in the human brain in terms of sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions, and was originally most commonly referred to as autism. People with ADHD, dyslexia, and other developmental differences are also included in neurodivergent populations. Neurodiversity is a superpower that drone companies can make good use of to increase their performance.
According to Jason San Souci, co-founder of Neurodiversity Works, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit that helps prepare neurodiverse students for STEM careers in drones, GIS, and artificial intelligence, neurodiversity is not synonymous with (or without) disability Ability). He explains: “Neurodiversity should be celebrated and respected. While not every neurodivergent child is a prodigy, well-documented autistic traits in the area of the child’s interest show a high level of attention to detail. Asperger himself described children with this syndrome as “little professors”. Many children with neurodiversity have geniuses or high IQ scores, but the same children are chronically unemployed or underemployed. “
The facts confirm this. There is a critical discrepancy between the documented potential of neurodivergent individuals and the 80-85% unemployment rate among these individuals. This may be due in part to the fact that many programs for neurodiverse individuals are discontinued around the age of 22. Inspired by his future stepson Blake and Blake’s mother Nicole Corder (also co-founder), Jason is now trying to fill this gap through their non-profit organizations and at the same time build a bridge to the drone industry.
Neurodiversity in the drone industry
Neurodiversity Works’ mission is to prepare neurodiverse students for careers in the drone ecosystem by developing targeted technical training programs that foster relationships between students and mentors from industry and working with employers to advocate for neurodiversity recruitment programs.
The program begins with a Drone Career Exploration Workshop that provides each Neurodiverse participant with an industry overview, training and education requirements, current use cases, and some familiarity with the tools of the subject. San Souci plans to offer this workshop quarterly through school-based and work-related programs such as Teaching the Autism Community Trades (TACT), Alternative Cooperative Education (ACEConnect), a CareerConnect program for Denver public schools, and others.
Participants over the age of 16 have the opportunity to earn their FAA Part 107 certification and become licensed commercial drone pilots. To this end, the non-profit association helps them to enroll in a small elementary school for unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) to prepare for Part 107. The strategic partners of Neurodiversity Works are working strategically on this project with the Drone Pilot Ground School and the Unmanned Safety Institute, depending on the learning accommodation of the participants.
Other companies and organizations have jumped on board as well, including ACEConnect at Denver Public Schools, which helps students explore careers in the drone industry and the NDGiFTS movement, find mentors, and plan workshops. The vision is that the program will eventually include socially distant excursions to observe commercial drone operations. Participants will see what a commercial drone operation looks like and interact with the crew. Veteran-owned small business Blue Nose Aerial Imaging and Juniper Unmanned have already agreed to organize these excursions with their local crews and offer internships for participants who have received their Part 107 certification.
The development of the workforce, embedded in a community of dignity and respect, remains the linchpin of this effort. San Souci explains: “We believe that maintaining dignity within the neurodiverse community is at the heart of what we do. We provide an environment in which students can develop their interests, express themselves creatively, and build relationships with mentors from the industry while providing them with the knowledge and skills to work in many industries. Our program contributes to effective change for our neurodiverse students including: decreased social isolation, improved mental health, wellbeing and quality of life, the ability to lead a more independent life, a higher rate of positive employment and educational performance, strengthened social structures and transferable Skills for many industries. “
Drone Pilot, Podcaster and Neurodiversity Pro
If anyone should know how to transfer skills to improve businesses, it’s Jason. He hosts two podcasts, “The Innovator’s Secrets” and “Do You Know Drones?” and has been a remote sensing and GIS scientist for 18 years. Jason brings his wealth of experience as a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Certified GIS and Neurodiversity Professional, FAA Certified and AUVSI TOP Remote Pilot, Level 3 Thermography, to this collaboration.
But nobody can do it alone. And so he realizes: “A village will need this effort.” For this reason, he created mentoring opportunities to expand the support network beyond companies. People with a heart for leadership, education and personnel development can get involved and make a difference.
Neurodiversity Works is starting locally and planning a global orientation, but has already gained mentors from the USA. Overall, the organization is following the same crawl-walk-run approach as the FAA has with the drone industry. The program is just starting. During this crawl phase, the team works mostly with students from the Denver Public School. The walk phase will include expansion throughout the state of Colorado and other states. The team will run if it achieves its global goals. Currently, their goal is to reach 100 students in the Denver metropolitan area by the end of 2021.
And this is a great start to injecting overwhelming talent into the drone industry!
Dawn MK Zoldi (Colonel, USAF, retired) is a licensed attorney with 28 years of active military and federal service in the Air Force Department. She is an internationally recognized expert on the law and politics of unmanned aircraft systems, columnist for Law-Tech Connect ™ for Inside Unmanned Systems magazine, recipient of the Woman to Watch in UAS (Leadership) Award 2019 and CEO of P3 Tech Consulting LLC. You can find more information on their website at: https://www.p3techconsulting.com.
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Author of over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space, Miriam is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For advice or writing in the drone industry, email Miriam.
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