Things that Fly.
My baptism into the drone industry has been as fast and furious as the XDC drone racing circuit and, I must say, it is quite the wild ride. In April, my first official project as Event Coordinator at Emerging Prairie was to coordinate the 2nd annual Drone Focus Conference on June 1, 2016. With my only experience in things that fly being kites attached to a string, let alone having never put my hands on a drone, I was terrified. Alas, I strapped on my best aviators and took the lead on one of the most interesting projects I had undertaken in quite some time. I juggled 25 speakers, 330 attendees and one student pitch contest in a “flash in the pan” kind of day, which I now barely remember. However, this article is not meant to discuss the past but rather, it is time to begin dreaming and planning for 2017.
A Return to the City of Lights. InterDrone: Las Vegas, NV – September 7-9, 2016
Hopping on a 5am flight, I was set to return to Las Vegas after my 14 year hiatus to attend InterDrone, the world’s largest commercial drone conference. At 8am PT, the plane landed in the City of Lights and I had little idea as to what to expect from my first international drone conference. “What could I learn or even understand at a conference completely about drones?” I thought to myself as the taxi arrived at the Paris Hotel. With 3,518 attendees, 155 exhibitors and 183 speakers the InterDrone conference was significantly larger than that of the Drone Focus conference in June. It was a different kind of conference and the sheer caliber of the speakers as well as the attendees would make any newbie feel a bit of turbulence. However, once I checked in, I developed a game plan and it was time to experience all that was laid out in front of me in a mad three-day dash.
Part 107 – Old Foes Become New Friends.
With the emergence of Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, the old pains and complaints of over-regulated airspace were a thing of the past. Nearly 10 of the sessions at InterDrone focused on FAA regulations and compliance for Part 107. The implementation of Part 107 set rules for, “non-hobbyist small unmanned aircraft (UAS) operations…[which] cover a broad spectrum of commercial uses for drones weighing less than 55 pounds.” The new rules established the requirement for drone pilots to obtain a, “remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds such a certificate.” It also outlines when you are permitted to fly, visibility requirements, safety precautions, load carrying capacity, and general privacy issues. It was clear that Part 107 was a step in the right direction for the relationship between the FAA and the drone industry.
Karen DiMeo, UAS R&D Technical Lead for the FAA stated that in years past, the FAA’s presence at InterDrone was minimal at best. However, this year, Michael P. Huerta, Administrator of the FAA was the grand opening keynote and was live-streamed. Huerta made the prediction that there could be as many as 600,000 unmanned aircraft used commercially in the first year of the new FAA rule. He also stated that, “the only bounds on this technology [UAS] are our imaginations.” This became clear as the days went on at InterDrone.
New Tech Takes Flight.
Technology is constantly changing and improving as time moves on and in the drone industry, the rate of innovation is at light-speed. With over 150 exhibitors, the amount of new technology, innovations and gadgets was innumerable. PowerVision came with not only their recently announced PowerEgg but also launched of their new PowerEye drone with nearly a 30 minute flight time and a 4K UHD camera. Tian Yu, CEO of Yuneec, shared the future of tech in the Breeze with integrated iOS/android application support allowing even the most novice user to take aerial footage. However, mostly excitingly, Tian announced the development of a two-seat, full electric airplane that has the capacity to fly up to one hour. Other uses and innovations included the use of thermal cameras on drones to fight fires, search and rescue missions, drones for cinematography, and so much more. Prior to the conference, my comprehension regarding the many uses for drones was minimal. The potential impact the UAS industry will have on the world has yet to be measured. The future of the drone industry is bright and, pun intended, the sky is the only limit for what is to come.
*P.S. Wonder why tigers is in the title? Well in Vegas, you never know what you may see on the strip and I witnessed a very large stuffed tiger on wheels being pulled by an Alan impersonator with a baby doll strapped to his chest.*
Authored by: Lindsay Breuler