Before March of 2020, I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a video conference call or when I actually took the time to watch an on-demand webinar. Now, the thought of using my office landline seems somewhat archaic and webinars that are focused on everything from package delivery to the importance of capturing the highest quality drone data are a regular part of my schedule. These are just a few small indications of how the world has changed, but a big one was announced last week with word that Commercial UAV Expo Americas is shifting to a virtual event that will feature a keynote from FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.

One of the biggest challenges with the uncertainty we’re surrounded with these days is that things are constantly changing, making it difficult to plan ahead. This announcement is welcome news to many who are struggling with such uncertainties, as it’s a commitment from the Commercial UAV Expo Americas team to hold an event on September 15-17th that will not be impacted by travel restrictions and health concerns. That same commitment has already been made for Commercial UAV Expo Europe, which will take place as part of a hybrid live-virtual Amsterdam Drone Week this December.

Additionally, unlike many of the “virtual events” that seem to pop up every other day, critical conference programming with interactive Q&A, virtual exhibits and one-on-one meetings that are set to be part of the virtual Commercial UAV Expo Americas highlight how this will actually be a powerful experience in a way that glorified webinars and Zoom calls are not. It’s a shift that recognizes any talk about ideal situations or best-case scenarios need to be pushed aside for the new reality we find ourselves in that is continually shifting.

“Where a virtual event may not have appealed to many just a few months ago, the world has changed,” said Lisa Murray, Group Director of Commercial UAV Expo Americas. “We are dedicated to bringing major stakeholders together to continue to move the industry forward during a particularly important time for drone industry expansion. People are yearning for connections and education.”

That yearning has seen operators and experts from across the drone industry not only accept but also actively seek to connect with one another in the digital space in a way that is unprecedented. Virtual events have been around for many years now, but they’ve never taken off because audiences didn’t see a need to engage with or on such platforms. The overall circumstances are forcing this type of engagement as countless organizations and stakeholders have literally asked us to organize the type of virtual event that Commercial UAV Expo Americas will become.

That evolution compels questions about technology and platforms, but those are all just details. What will it mean to connect in a virtual environment instead of in person? Will the same kind of networking be possible? What will it be like to experience a product through a virtual exhibit? Will online education be robust? How exactly will all of these elements come together? These are the sorts of questions that will be answered in the lead up to the event, and they’re the ones that really matter.

I’m going to answer my own question from the headline and say that, yes, a drone show can become a compelling virtual event, but doing so isn’t about technology or platforms. It’s not even about numbers or timing. Instead, it’s about a commitment to enabling powerful education and networking. The way in which that education and networking take place will be different in a virtual environment, but expectations around what you’re going to get by being part of it should still be high.

You’ll be seeing lots more information from us in the lead-up to the virtual event that will be as unique and it is worthwhile. If you have questions or thoughts about what it means for you to be part of that as it comes together, please do get in touch via email or on social media.