The award was presented as part of the 31st annual Waitta Incite Awards, Western Australia’s longest running Tech Awards program.
Waitta Incite Awards chief judge Bob Cross said Mahmood met all the criteria of the awards.
“Mahmood took a risk by funding the startup personally with help from family and friends, in an industry that was still developing approval processes. He has made a difference by building a successful drone training business with the biggest names in mining and oil and gas as customers, and he is an inspiration as the media’s ‘drone guru’, developing primary, secondary and tertiary education programs, working pro bono on using drones for reforestation, and partnering with WeRobotics to tackle inequality, social injustice and unsustainable development.”
Mahmood founded Global Drone Solutions (GDS) in 2016 as a drone pilot training organisation.
Since then, GDS has been a key organisation facilitating drone technology, having trained over 2500 pilots across many industries. GDS's huge list of customers include BHP, Rio Tinto, Newmont, Newcrest, Woodside, Ausdrill, WA Water, and the Department of Education.
From humble beginnings in Pakistan, Mahmood migrated as a child to the UK and obtained degrees in mechanical engineering, management, and marketing.
In his early career, he grew business opportunities and built distribution networks, particularly in Asia Pacific.
In 1999, Mahmood moved to Australia where he held several senior executive positions in the mining, automotive and manufacturing industries.
In 2015, Mahmood started researching opportunities in drones. The use of drone technology had been pioneered in the military. However, Mahmood foresaw a much wider use of drone technology for monitoring, mapping, safety and logistics in industries such as mining, agriculture, security, transport, entertainment and more.
He realised then that the sector would not develop without skilled operators and fully qualified, well-trained drone pilots.
In 2016, Mahmood established Global Drone Solutions (GDS) as a drone pilot training academy. At that time, there were many risks.
The drone industry was in its infancy and underwent changes as new technology became available. The training material had to be cutting-edge and there were significant regulatory approvals to be obtained from Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), which, at that time, was still formulating policy.
When GDS commenced trading, all training was delivered face-to-face. As training gained traction, Mahmood realised the way to scale would be through online training courses.
This would provide an opportunity for trainees to study the theory component in their own time, which also be a great benefit to those who are in a remote location, or who cannot make the time commitment to the full five-day training course in person.
Developing the online material consumed time and finances with no assurance that it would be accepted by CASA or the market. However, the risk paid off: GDS doubled its turnover during the initial impact of the COVID pandemic.
In late 2021, GDS won a large WA Government tender to develop training material for liquified natural gas (LNG) process operators.
Rising to the challenge, GDS developed a training metaverse, a unique 3D virtual world, where students enter the metaverse using virtual reality headsets.
Today, GDS has broadened the range of training to include terrestrial and sub-sea remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that can collect, analyse, and share asset condition and monitoring insights.
GDS has produced a free e-book with over 500 drone applications across 30 different industries in what has become a $100 billion industry worldwide.
In education at all levels, GDS has developed programs for young people aspiring a career in ICT.
School programs are particularly beneficial in reaching girls at an early age and introducing them to the possibilities of careers in drones and robotics, areas which have been typically male dominated.
Mahmood is a board member of Lord of the Trees giving his time pro bono to ensure compliant drone operations on the organisation’s reforestation projects which are currently located in Western Australia and Saudi Arabia.
The organisation has developed a mass tree-planting method that uses drones to mimic the way nature distributes seeds.
Not only does this make it cost effective and quick to plant large numbers of trees in difficult and inaccessible areas, like mountainsides and after disasters, but the success rate is much higher than what is achieved by manual planting.
GDS also has also partnered with humanitarian group WeRobotics.
The group uses technology to help tackle global issues such as inequality, social injustice and unsustainable development. GDS donates the use of its online training program to train drone pilots who will achieve change in countries around the world.
As the WA Pearcey Award recipient, Mahmood Hussein will represent the state in the Pearcey National Awards to be held on 11 November 2022 at an event in conjunction with ACS Tasmania and TasICT, at the C3 Convention Centre, Hobart.