Hover UAV founder Jackie Dujmovic is successfully harnessing the potential of drone technology and, in the process, is helping to challenge preconceived notions of gender-specific careers. Here, Jackie shares her business journey – from the initial lift-off to present day.
Starting a commercial drone business isn’t an obvious second career choice, particularly for a woman who’s recently embarked on the lifetime adventure that is motherhood. But Jackie Dujmovic is living proof of what happens when you embrace technology with passion and purpose, and that the sky really is the limit – regardless of gender.
Since starting Hover UAV four years ago, she’s firmly cemented her position in a still very male-dominated drone sector. In addition to partnering with the government and clients like Google on some of the largest drone programs in Australia, Jackie’s become a nationally recognised industry innovator.
As with any start-up founder, especially one operating in an emerging field, Jackie has had her share of ups and downs. What appears to have made all the difference to her success, however, is her readiness and ability to adapt at every turn.
After a career in the maritime industry and travelling the globe working on super yachts, Jackie settled back in Port Stephens to welcome the first of her two sons into the world.
“Working at sea was no longer a practical option. I was aware of the applications of drones and could see their potential. A friend of mine lost their life at sea and I’d always thought ‘Could a drone have saved them?’”
She bought her first drone and was instantly hooked. “It was not so much the flying aspect that I fell in love with, but what it could do and how it could help people. I made a split decision that this is what I was going to do, and the next day went out to get my UAV licence and started setting up a business.”
In the early days, Dujmovic admits to making a common start-up mistake. “These shiny, amazing things had so many uses: imagery, surveys, site inspections, surveillance – and there was always new technology coming out, so I kept trying to do everything,” she says.
Tapping into free business advice helped her to define her offering, which was a big turning point. “My partner and I had all this maritime experience as well as a passion for marine conservation. We repositioned ourselves as the experts in this field, which led to our involvement with the Australian government’s drone shark surveillance trials.”
Hover UAV now plays an integral role in the government’s shark mitigation research program – something Jackie is particularly proud of.
The success of this government initiative quickly led to more opportunities in marine conservation. “We work with research organisations monitoring whale sizes and collecting DNA samples. We also work on marine debris programs, looking at ways to help solve our plastics problem.”
It also inspired Jackie to seek better ways to alert people in real time when a hazardous shark was nearby. “Often lifeguards hadn’t started for the day and we’d run down the beach waving our hands shouting, ‘Get out of the water!’,” she says.
“I designed and commissioned a shark alarm that could be installed on any UAV platform. I’m not an electronics expert, but I had the idea and I knew how it could work with drones,” she explains. It’s this desire to innovate that helped earn her a place on the global 2018 Women to Watch in UAS List.
Hover UAV has aims to improve the way UAVs can be used in lifesaving. In collaboration with other businesses, they’re developing drop mechanisms to deliver buoyancy aids to swimmers in distress.
“A large part of our growth has come from collaborating; recognising that we can’t do everything and aligning ourselves with companies that have the same values.”
Today, her team number 18 and Hover UAV is engaged with a host of other sectors beyond the maritime sphere. “We’re assisting large enterprises and governments with systems management, helping them integrate drones into their existing workflow, keeping them compliant and developing training packages so they can focus on being great at what they do,” she explains.
Only last year her business partnered with Google’s parent company Alphabet on a new drone delivery initiative in Canberra. “We manage the flight operations for Project Wing delivering coffees, burritos and pharmaceuticals daily,” Dujmovic says.
She predicts we’ll see more drone deliveries and even urban mobility, from the likes of Uber Elevate, within the next five years. She also highlights the energy, agriculture and construction industries as significant growth areas.
Continuing to add value in this rapidly evolving environment is no easy task, but the entrepreneur says that making the most of opportunities to learn is key. “There are so many resources out there for small businesses, such as Business Australia, and so many amazing people and companies. We try and listen and learn as much as possible, not just about the technology but about the problems we’re looking to tackle.”
When quizzed on her most important learning to date, “never give up” is Jackie’s simple reply. “If you have a passion for something, don’t worry what other people think, just go for it,” she says
It’s a philosophy that has clearly paid off. The recognition she’s received to date, including as a finalist in the 2018 NSW Businesswoman of the Year Awards, acknowledges both her contribution as a business leader and to addressing gender disparity in her field.
“The under-representation of women was definitely an issue for me at first, but just because this job involves a lot of technology, it doesn’t mean there’s any reason women can’t do it, or that men are any better at it,” she says.
These days, while overseas expansion is definitely on the cards, a big personal focus for Jackie is working with school groups and sharing her story – not only to showcase the myriad opportunities new technologies provide but to inspire women and girls to follow in her footsteps, whatever their chosen field.
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At Hover UAV we assist drone programs from conception to full implementation. We are a passionate team of experts, with diverse skill sets and backgrounds gained in sectors such as maritime, crewed aviation, defense, corporate and engineering sectors.