Commercial UAV Expo Conference Program, Speakers and Keynotes Announced!

One of my favorite things about reporting on the commercial drone space is being able to see the practical applications of this technology literally change the way professionals approach their work. I have friends who will give me a weird look when I tell them why the fact that drones are being used to measure stockpiles is such a big deal. Maybe such things are not as scintillating as some uses of the technology, but UAVs will literally change the way business is conducted and being done. That’s a big deal.

I try to focus on the real-world differences the technology can make, partly because there are enough people talking about all of the potential drones possess as well as the great things they’re (maybe) going to be able to do someday. All of that is fun to read about, but what does all of that mean to farmers who are looking to increase their yields today? What about the construction workers that want to use drones to assess all of the things that are or are not being done on their project right now? What about the city government officials who want to use drones to inspect bridges and roads that are in danger of falling apart in the near future? Those people need to know how drones are going to help them TODAY. How they might be able to help tomorrow is a separate and far less important issue.

I’ve explored some of the practical applications that are happening throughout a number of industries, but the Commercial UAV Expo brings all of that together at a single event. Taking place October 31st – November 2nd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the Expo is set to feature industry luminary Jonathan Downey as a keynote speaker along with countless other experts who will explain and detail how UAVs are making a difference in various markets. Professionals in agriculture, mining, oil & gas and plenty of other industries will be able to connect in-person at the Expo to see and understand the many ways in which drones can make an impact on their business right now. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that discovering how drones can change the approach you are or will be taking is much different than listening to someone talk about the raw capabilities and possibilities these tools posses.

Far and away, the biggest topic when it comes to operating and flying a drone for commercial purposes has to do with FAA regulation, and the expo has three experts lined up to address where things are at and where they’re going with regulation. I’d be hard pressed to come up with two better experts than Greg Walden and Greg McNeal when it comes to talking through what it means to fly legally for commercial purposes. On top of that, you’ll get info and insight straight from the FAA itself as Hoot Gibson is set to provide an update.

I mentioned the practical applications of the technology in specific markets, and the expo has a number of industry giants lined up to speak and specifically address professionals in these areas. If you work on a farm, you absolutely want to check out the “Connecting UAV Data with All Farm Data” being presented by Young Kim. If you’re a mining professional, Lewis Graham is sure to provide some incredible insight during his Mine Site Mapping – One Year In session. If you work in construction, Nathan Fuller’s What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Next is one you don’t want to miss, and there are plenty other can’t-miss sessions for each of those markets. Civil Engineering & Infrastructure, Law Enforcement, Search & Rescue, Surveying & Mapping, Mining & Aggregates, plus Utilities and Power & Process all have similar experts and top tier sessions lined up, so you’ll be able to find the track or tracks that make the most sense for you in order to listen to and learn from the best in the business.

While it’s essential to have this drilled in perspective, it’s also important to see the bigger picture, and that’s where sessions from people like Colin Snow, Kathleen Swain and Kenneth Kranz come in. Sessions that focus on issues like data, workflow and risk management are relevant to operations of all types and sizes, regardless of the specific industry.


As I already mentioned, Jonathan Downey is set to deliver a keynote that will focus on what’s possible and what’s on the horizon when it comes to aerial data, and it should be a fascinating look at the present and future of the industry. That said, I’m especially excited to hear what Parimal Kopardekar (PK for short) has to say about the collaboration between commercial and government entities during his keynote. I’ve been following the development of a UTM system pretty closely, and it should be enlightening to hear PK’s insights and experiences.



As amazing as some of those sessions and keynotes will be, the exhibit floor is where you’ll be able to see how these tools can specifically work for you. The show floor is where you’ll be able to connect with experts at a number of organizations like Drone Deploy, Measure, Pix4D, PrecisionHawk and SenseFly, just to name a few. As of publish date, the current list of exhibitors is below but check for the most up-to-date exhibitor list on our website - more companies are signing up each day! All of these companies will be ready and willing to answer specific questions about how their products and services can make a difference for your business.


1444883033008The pre-conference kicks off on October 31st with two different product preview sessions, but I can tell you that people are already gearing up for the Halloween Happy Hour. Will Austin Powers make another appearance at the event?

Whether or not all of that truly makes the Commercial UAV Expo a different kind of drone show is something you’ll have to determine for yourself. At the very least, I can virtually guarantee you won’t find another event that emphasizes these specific markets in such depth and detail, and after seeing for myself how much range the industry possesses, being able to showcase this kind of focus makes a big difference.

For anyone who sees and understands the value of the event, make sure to register before July 31st to take advantage of the early bird rate. You can still register and attend after that date, but if there's one thing I've learned in covering this space, it's the importance of planning ahead and laying the ground work for what you want to happen in the near-term and long-term.

Here’s to connecting in person at the Commercial UAV Expo.