Interdrone 2017 Key Takeaways

For three days during the heat of the summer thousands of people from the UAV industry descend upon the flashy desert city of Las Vegas, Nevada. The 2017 Interdrone Conference and Expo was held September 6-8 at the Rio Hotel and Casino, which is located near the bright lights of the famous Las Vegas strip. The annual 3 day event boasts nearly 200 drone industry manufacturers, sellers and vendors.

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The grand opening keynote speech given by Michael P. Huerta, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, highlighted the usefulness and social benefits of drones and the need to integrate UAV’s into the national airspace.

The grand keynote by Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, showed off Intel’s Falcon 8+ drone. The speech was highlighted by an impressive indoor flight demonstration of the Falcon 8 in a simulated inspection operation of a large indoor facade. The mission was flown in both manual and automated modes and performed flawlessly while avoiding objects and without GPS.

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Krzanich also keyed in on the shift of importance from the drone to the Data, noting that ”Data is the new oil… and if data is the new oil, then drones are the new oil wells.”

Interdrone's conference segment is actually a combination of three technical conferences rolled into one. Drone Techcon, Drone Enterprise, and Drone Cinema. The conference portion of Interdrone featured panels and sessions led by industry experts, thought leaders, and end users.

The Drone Techcon segment is aimed at drone builders, engineers, and developers with subjects focused on advanced flying dynamics, chips and boards, hardware/software integration, sensors, power and software development.

The Drone Enterprise conference is tailored for enterprise UAV pilots, operators, and drone service businesses with panels and sessions focused on enterprise level applications such as precision agriculture, surveying, mapping, infrastructure inspection, law enforcement, package delivery and search and rescue.

Finally the Drone Cinema conference segment was for pilots engaged in aerial photography and videography and any professional activity where the image is paramount. Class content included drone use for real estate/resort marketing, action sports and movie filming, and news gathering. With a multitude of classes and panels to choose from, there was sure to be something for nearly everyone in the commercial UAS space here.

Additionally there were also special pre-conference classes available that offered Part 107 License Training, a Drone Videography Intensive, and a Surveying / Mapping with UAV’s course. These special classes required separate registration / fees and were not included with the conference or exhibit hall passes.

These courses are much more specific and intensive learning classes than what is found in the sessions and panels, which are 45 minutes and usually a little more broad and overarching. So, if you're just getting started in this industry or are looking to expand your skills and offerings, these pre-conference classes would be a great place to start.

Inside the Interdrone Exhibit Hall attendees were treated to all manor of drones both big and small, and designed for a wide range of applications. Walking around the exhibits one could check out everything from small inspection drones made for operating in tight confined quarters, up to very large heavy lift fixed wing and rotary UAVs and even blimp/drone hybrids!

Among the more unusual drones on hand were the quad Jet-powered drones by Fusion Flight, an under water rover type drone from Power Vision, and even AeroGaurd’s drone, designed to shoot down other drones with a net. Fired out the front of the UAS, the net snags the offending drone and then carries it away from sensitive areas.

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AeroGaurds airspace denial drone nets offending drones during flight.

Many accessories manufacturers and software developers were also in attendance showing off things like drone locators for lost drones, FPV headsets, UAV detection and counter UAV systems, drone lights, modular payload systems, LiDar units, training simulators and more.  If you're a techie or enjoy seeing the new tech up close and in person, then the Interdrone exhibit hall is the place to be!

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Four Jet Engines power this prototype drone allowing for heavy payloads and extremely high flight speeds.

Some of the more notable products on display included, Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell technology that boasts greatly extended flight times over battery operated systems with super fast refueling times.

Since the UAV runs on commonly available hydrogen instead of batteries that need recharging and maintenance, overall uptime and efficiency is increased. With a quick refueling the unit can be back in the air for another extended mission in short order. Advances in miniaturization and lightweight materials is quickly making this alternative fuel source into a very viable option for operators. The Moverio BT-300 FPV by EPSON glasses were a nice new take on FPV with glasses that are see-through smart glasses with a transparent display. 

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Its a system that actually performs rather well without being a big bulky FPV unit like DJI’s unit. With claims of being the worlds lightest Si-OLED-powered FPV glasses, these glasses will allow you to see your video feed and telemetry. All while also keeping your aircraft in line of sight and without head fatigue due to weight. 

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The super compact O2+ drone and remote by GDU.

Another key notable was GDU’s release of the compact GDU O2+ drone. The O2 sports one of the worlds smallest 3 axis gimbals and is set to compete with DJI's Mavic Pro. With a similar size and form factor the GDU O2+ is a small drone boasting Slide-Arm technology to retract into a small compact package that connects to the remote. This small package forms an easy to carry drone that has a 4K camera, dual GPS, obstacle avoidance, vision positioning and a 7KM HD video transmission range.

Looking back on the 2017 Interdrone conference as a first time attendee, I was left impressed by the spectrum of classes and panels during the conference portion. With many sessions on subjects of interest, I often found myself torn between conflicting sessions.

There’s so much good information at Interdrone that the event could be extended another full day and one couldn’t cover everything. The exhibitors in the exhibit hall were equally diverse and informative. Its amazing to see the myriad of ways drones are being used for good and seeing the direction is headed.

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Overview of Drones showed at the Conference by DroneRush

This is definitely an industry where the sky is the limit! So, if you’re just getting started in the UAV industry, considering a UAS program at your business, or even a seasoned service provider, the annual Interdrone Expo and Conference is a show that I recommend attending.

Its a great event if you want to learn, make business connections, and stay at the forefront of the industry. Next year’s Interdrone will again be hosted at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas Sept. 5-7, 2018. Hope to see you there next year!


Contributor: Keith Lawson

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