Home' Position : Position Dec Jan 2016 Contents Aviation is one of the most gender
stereotyped industries in the
world, with men making up the
vast majority of airline executives and
pilots, women the flight attendants and
booking receptionists. A recent campaign
by Virgin Australia to put 'the romance
back' in flying seemed to reinforce these
stereotypes, with male pilots flanked
by glamorous female flight attendants
and a call back to the 'good old days'
of flying. Sure, they have the odd token
woman pilot in their adverts, but in the
main, male pilots lead the flock of pretty,
red-lipsticked cabin crew. And that's
not to single out Virgin Australia as an
exception, almost all airline websites
feature similar images. See www.youtube.
The geospatial industry stereotypes may
not be quite as glamorous, but the roles
are still neatly defined: men predominate
in the boardrooms and out in the field,
women in receptionist, marketing and
When automated aerial mapping was
introduced to the geospatial industry
in 2011, the two industries crossed
paths for the first time. Yet despite the
groundbreaking technology that has
revolutionised the way we survey large
areas or monitor and inspect hard-to-
reach structures, the accepted industry
terms use gender-stereotyped language
that is all too common in both industries.
'Unmanned aerial systems' or UAS has
become the widely used term to describe
either fixed-wing or multi-rotor systems
for a range of different industries.
It may seem a perfectly adequate
description and it has the advantage of
differentiating these industry-specific
ones from the more generic term 'drone'
with all its negative connotations to do
with war and espionage.
You may also think the word
'unmanned' is harmless given its route
in the word 'mankind' (and so far
there's been no push to change this to
'peoplekind'), yet the Oxford Dictionary
definition of 'not having or
needing a crew or staff' is
technically incorrect when
it comes to describing these
systems, as they require a
certified pilot on the ground to
When looking for alternatives
that would enable us to keep
the UAS or UAV acronym that
has become widely accepted
as an industry term, it seems
that all the variations fall short.
'Unattended' suggests the
aircraft is left to its own devices,
'uninhabited' suggests unchartered
landscapes and hardly rolls off the tongue,
'unpiloted' is better but ignores the fact
that there is a certified pilot on the ground
who went through rigorous training and
is in control at all times. 'Unoccupied'
is perhaps the most technically correct
option and provides a gender inclusive
alternative if we are to keep the acronym.
We are doing the technology a disservice
by not reinforcing its safety benefits and
gender neutrality in our language.
Pushing for gender equality is highly
topical, given recent campaigns by major
Australian companies such as ANZ bank
to create an 'equal future' for the next
generation. In an emotive video whereby
young girls read out statistics such as
"women make up 40% of the world's
workforce, yet control only a ¼ of the
world's wealth," the campaign states that
although girls learn to read and talk faster
than boys, "the system's not designed for
women to succeed." Watch it at www.
Isis Wenger, a software engineer based
in the United States, recently created
the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer in
response to negative comments about her
'not looking like an engineer should' on a
recruitment advert for her company. The
hashtag quickly spread to more than 50
countries and garnered some 75,000 tweets
as it resonated with thousands of other
women engineers who had faced similar
gender stereotyping and inappropriate
comments in the workplace. See www.
Despite many legislative, social
and commercial initiatives to improve
Let's un-man the
Automated aerial mapping has transformed the way we survey large, inaccessible areas, yet the term
'unmanned' appears to reinforce outdated gender stereotypes all too common in both the aviation
and geospatial industries. And as hobbyist and low-quality systems with their associated safety
concerns are becoming commonplace, the term falls short of an accurate description that reflects
the huge safety benefits this technology brings to the mining, construction and surveying industries.
16 position December/January 2016
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