1. Business

This 'SkyNinja' gets her kicks with drones high above Tampa Bay

CARROLLWOOD — Nearly 1,000 air miles stand between Pennsylvania and Tampa Bay, but Taylor Mitcham easily made the trek — thanks to a drone.

Mitcham opted to relocate her SkyNinja drone business from Philadelphia to Carrollwood last September. She arrived in the days after Hurricane Irma, and that allowed her to jump right in. She quickly partnered with T-Mobile to inspect their local cell towers post hurricane and worked with several insurance companies to use drone images to inspect roofs in the area.

Still the company's main sector remains in construction with the majority of clients utilizing drones to create real-life renderings, mapping, as well as 2D and 3D maps of areas. Inspection work comes in a close second.

Since moving to Tampa Bay, Mitcham has consulted on White House drone initiatives, spoken at CES conferences, and continues to take SkyNinja down the industrial sector of drones.

Yet when she was first asked about drone use on a project, she had no idea it would become such a major part of her life.

In 2015, her supervisors asked Mitcham to research the possible use of drones to help oversee the development of six gas terminals that would connect into the Dakota Access Pipeline.

At the time, she was serving as a project engineer at a major EPFC construction firm in North Dakota, and was soon tasked with starting the company's brand new drone program. The program quickly became a powerful tool for most, if not all, departments. Construction teams use drone images to keep clients up to date on progress. Supply chains utilize the images to keep track of materials on site.

Less than two years later, with an abundance of drone knowledge under her belt and an eye towards market needs, the Penn State graduate started SkyNinja. She originally launched in Pennsylvania and worked with companies to help them with mapping, monitoring, and inspection needs.

As the "founder and Chief Drone Ninja," Mitcham represents part of the 4 percent of women that work as drone pilots in the United States. As the driving force behind the startup, she recently earned the designation "Rising Star in Tech" by the Consumer Technology Association.

Now her presence is helping grow the drone industry in Carrollwood and Tampa Bay.

When asked why Tampa Bay, Mitcham cited three main reasons for the move. The first reason, and the most important, was climate. "Cold weather impacts battery life," she said, "so sometimes a cold climate will only allow 5 minutes of battery life and when you're flying 100 acres 5 minutes goes by fast."

The second reason was cost of living, but she mentions that although she was looking for a lower cost of living than what she faced in Philadelphia, she still wanted a place that had a lot going on.

The final reason was quality of life, so she looked for places that were full of options in terms of events and ongoings, and very importantly, a "real" airport. After much research, and many many spreadsheets, it came down to Tampa Bay and San Antonio.

Mitcham found that Tampa Bay just had more to offer, more promise for her startup, and as an added bonus – beautiful beaches.

"Business is good, this was definitely a good move," Mitcham said. "I love Tampa, business wise and happiness wise."

Contact Jennifer Lima at