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Chicago's 'Drone Girl' A Pioneer Among Pilots: 'It's Very Cool'

By Justin Breen | March 16, 2017 5:18am | Updated on March 17, 2017 11:38am
 Carmaine Means, a Roseland native and Columbia College of Chicago graduate, is president of Drone Girl Photography and a photojournalist at CBS Chicago — where she uses her drone to capture videos.
Carmaine Means
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DOWNTOWN — Carmaine Means considers herself a pioneer in an emerging technological field.

The Roseland native and Columbia College of Chicago graduate is president of Drone Girl Photography and a photojournalist at CBS Chicago — where she uses her drone to capture videos.

Means is one of the few African-American women licensed to pilot drones in the United States — just 4 percent are women — and she knows of only three others who are black.

"It's very cool," Means said. "You're on the ground floor of new technology in drones, and I have a chance to make an impact for being a photojournalist, a female journalist and a black female journalist and drone pilot."

 Carmaine Means' drone
Carmaine Means' drone
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Carmaine Means

Means has operated a drone since 2015. She began using the drone at CBS2 in 2016.

She has flown the drone in the Museum of Science and Industry, over a tree farm in Lake Geneva and captured post-tornado damage in Downstate Illinois. Rules administered and enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration bar Means and other pilots from flying the drones over numerous Chicago spots. Rules also prohibit "flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren't directly participating in the drone operation," according to the Tribune.

"There are a lot of restrictions and limitations in terms of us flying over people and getting shots, but it's an ever-evolving industry, and things are getting a little better," Means said.

Means wants to help the next generation of female and minority drone pilots. She has partnered with groups like Women and Drones, the Girl Scouts, and Black Women in Science and Engineering to host workshops for prospective pilots. In May, she's working with the YWCA on a similar endeavor.

"We want to help young girls who want to get involved in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math], and this is an industry that's deeply involved in STEM," Means said. "We want to show young black and minority women that you can do this and you can achieve."