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'Creating the next emerging technology leaders' | Teen girls learn to fly drones equipped with LiDAR technology

A couple dozen teen girls are flying high after learning how to fly drones with laser detection while on their Spring break studying to be FAA certified drone pilots

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Lifting off a Light Detection and Ranging drone, Health Sciences High School senior Shyanne Smith was able to operate the $60,000 drone on her own.

"We are used to small DJI drones," said Smith. "They are about this big, so this was huge. I think there was some fear because this can do serious damage if I don’t fly it right."

A couple dozen San Diego female high school students are in the 'Girls Take Flight' program at the Elementary Institute of Science near Market and Euclid during in Emerald Hills on their Spring Break.

"These girls are going to put in a lot of time and effort, they are here for this week and spending about 30 hours being introduced to the world of drones,” said Jim Stone, Elementary Institute of Science executive director.

The girls will become FAA certified drone pilots, which will prep them for a 9-month program open to 25 young women ages 16-19 in November part of "Our Genetic Legacy." 

They will map and survey the Julian Pioneer Cemetery with drones.

"There is some confusion in terms of the location of where some of those who are interned there, so we're going to be using the LiDAR and other geospatial equipment to recover those locations,” said Shellie F. Baxter, CEO/Founder, Our Genetic Legacy.

"This program is to empower the most underrepresented in STEAM, which are women, and to use the most advanced technology to recover the legacy of those that were once considered the least of us," Baxter said.

The students will also create a virtual memorial of the Harrison Serenity Ranch, 67 acres of the former home of Nate Harrison, San Diego County's first black homesteader.

"How many of you guys have made three dimensional models of a building? Alright, we got a place to start here,” said Dan Hubert, CEO of MODUS, or Mapping Operations Data Unmanned Solutions.

Hubert founded his small Geo-spacing consultancy and will serve as the program's drone instructor.

"Now we are going to do this in San Diego here, where we are able to do a full restoration of the buildings and potentially archaeological sites underneath the vegetation,” said Hubert. 

The girls will also learn from female aerospace engineers of color.

"We are creating the next emerging technology leaders by combining STEM and business together for the real world for girls from untapped communities,” said Jasmine Leflore, co-founder and executive director of Greater Than Tech.

Shyanne Smith has served as a student instructor to other young girls in the Girls Take Flight program and already has her drone certification. As she decides between either attending the University of San Diego or Berkeley in the Fall, she says her drone knowledge has been life changing.

"I think that it's definitely a great program to help you get exposed to careers that you don't always hear about growing up because I never heard about drone pilots when I was a kid. I think that we are always pushed to become lawyers or doctors, which is great, but I like that they expose us to different career paths,” said Smith. 

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