We often talk about how quickly things change with the commercial drone market, and the CAMCOPTER® S-100 UAS from Schiebel Aircraft, Inc. is an especially pertinent example of the type of technology that is fueling those changes. However, developments that take place behind the scenes at these companies often represent even more significant shifts for the market, and Schiebel just announced a major one by naming Gretchen West as President and CEO of Schiebel Aircraft, Inc. USA.

Gretchen’s name is one that people across the drone space and beyond are familiar with, after having spoken at countless drone industry events and being featured in print and media outlets that include Commercial Drones FM and the Drone Radio Show. She has also represented the unmanned systems industry in front of Congress and other Federal Agencies, providing testimony, briefings, and educational presentations. These activities are ultimately just an extension of the work she’s done as a senior director in the Global Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) practice group at Hogan Lovells, in addition to serving as Co-executive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance.

All of that will directly factor into her mission to facilitate the growth CAMCOPTER® S-100 UAS in the United States with a focus on the U.S. defense, civil and commercial markets. Her experience related to overseeing advocacy, business development, and strategy efforts are just part of what made her the ideal leader for Schiebel Aircraft.

“Gretchen has been at the forefront of the U.S. unmanned systems industry for 15 years and has advocated on behalf of the global community to reduce barriers to enable operations and general use,” said Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group. “With experience across multiple industries – defense, civil, and commercial – Gretchen brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to SAI. We are thrilled to welcome Gretchen to our global team and to serve these new markets under her leadership.”

That leadership has focused on removing barriers for commercial drone end users, and her efforts to do so can be directly and indirectly seen in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Her successes in this regard illustrate how she’s been able to make real change in the space, but the opportunity to grow the market for Schiebel Group and establish a broad presence in the U.S. represents something a bit different. So what made this position the right one for her?

“The opportunity to lead Schiebel Aircraft’s new venture is partially a way of coming back to where I started and to re-engage broader industries, but also to discover new opportunities to showcase how a larger UAS can provide substantial benefits across many domains and markets in the United States,” Gretchen told Commercial UAV News. “Schiebel’s UAS is well-tested, well-proven, and has decades of success; and to be able to bring that technology and expertise here, and provide a new option for many different industries and customers, made it the right fit.”

Gretchen also mentioned that when she first began her career in the unmanned systems industry, all of the companies she worked with were developing larger systems primarily for military use, and that included Schiebel. She witnessed those companies shift to civil use and eventually commercial use, which spurred the creation of much smaller systems. With many civil and commercial organizations now expressing interest in these larger systems, the industry has in some ways come full circle, allowing her to leverage her past experiences in an especially powerful way going forward. That said, what the growth of the technology will look like is ever-changing, but it’s something she’s openly embracing.

“There will still be similar challenges that we all have faced in the small UAS world, but I’m excited to jump into this new challenge and carve a path to success,” Gretchen said.

What that path to success looks like is one we’ll be following up around very soon, especially as more and more organizations explore and utilize larger drones like the S-100 for a variety of civil and commercial applications.