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The female drone pilot who means business on a Ventura County construction site

Blanca Hoffmeier from SWPPP CAL Stormwater is one of a small number of female drone pilots in the country
Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
Blanca Hoffmeier from SWPPP CAL Stormwater is one of a small number of female drone pilots in the country

Drones are used every day now in business, but only a small number of drone pilots are female, in the US.

A small drone is flying overhead, taking photographs at this construction site in Ventura. It's piloted by the owner of a stormwater management company, who is checking the site is in compliance with environmental regulations.

"It's not just a toy. It's a great tool. I tell everyone if you play video games, then you'll know how to fly a drone," said the pilot, Blanca Hoffmeier.

Hoffmeier is one of a small minority of drone pilots who are women. In fact, only 8% of certified drone pilots nationally are female.

"There's very few of us. There's less than 8% female drone pilots in the United States," she said.

As a female business owner in the male dominated industry of engineering and construction, Hofmeier says she wants to inspire others into the field.

"I really enjoy the earth moving. I love watching a jobsite that has nothing there in the beginning, and then we get a beautiful structures, whatever it may be, right? Whether it's something like this - housing - or it could be a new library, it could be a new hospital, a new school," she said.

And while Hofmeier says she's confident of her skills as a pilot and an engineer, she started her business when she was in her forties and looked to a Central Coast nonprofit, Women's Economic Ventures for Support and mentorship.

The business started when I was 44 years/ 45 years old. Yeah, a little bit later in life. But I think that's when I got the courage to get out of that office. And I knew I could do this on my own. And of course, with WEV's help! That's been fantastic," she said.

Lysa Urban from Women's Economic Ventures, known as WEV, said, " She is obviously outstanding at her job in the STEM field as a bilingual woman on a construction sites doing amazing work."

"Blanca is an outstanding example of some of the people that we helped through WEV because English was not her first language. Her first in comfort language is Spanish. And because we provide all of our services, everything in English and Spanish, she was a great fit to come to WEV," said Urban.

Hoffmeier agrees, "I went to school for engineering. I didn't go to school for business. So for them to give me the resources that I needed to continue the business as simple as finding a bookkeeper. And then with the grants that I received paying for insurance, they couldn't pay. Who knew that insurance was so expensive for a business? So things like that, that's been helpful."

And with that, she lands the drone and gets set to head to another construction site to do more of the same.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 10 Golden Mike Awards, 5 Los Angeles Press Club Awards, 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards and a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Writing.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for eleven years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.