News from Commercial UAV Expo 2022—Major Releases, Talks, and Pitch the Press Winners
BY Zacc Dukowitz8 September 2022
Commercial UAV Expo’s annual conference was happening this week in Las Vegas, and we were there.
At the show we saw major product releases, heard about breaking news in the drone industry, and attended insightful, in-depth talks from regulatory and private industry leaders.
Keep reading to get all our highlights from the event.
Releases and News from the Exhibition Hall
Here are some of the major releases and breaking news from the exhibition hall this week at Commercial UAV Expo.
Draganfly Launches a Heavy Lift Drone and the Commander 3 XL Drone
The Commander 3 XL Drone | Credit: Draganfly
This week at Commercial UAV Expo, Draganfly launched two new drones—a U.S.-made Heavy Lift Drone and a smaller drone called the Commander 3XL. The Commander 3XL is being called a “Swiss Army Knife” by Draganly for its ability to meet several different commercial needs in one platform. Draganfly also released a long range LiDAR system this week, which can be used as a mobile LiDAR device on drones, manned aircraft, or mounted to another vehicle or backpack.
Flying Flyability’s Elios 3 inside the Exhibition Hall
Flyability hauled a huge trailer into the exhibition hall, allowing people to actually fly its new Elios 3 at the booth. While flying, people could look at the 3D map the drone made of the interior of the trailer on its tablet using data from its LiDAR sensor. Flyability shared its booth with MFE Inspection Solutions, a drone and robotics reseller that specializes in tools for inspections, and the MFE team had a Boston Dynamics Spot Robot with them—the now iconic “dog “robot”—which also drew a lot of attention in the exhibition hall.
In related news, this week at the conference Flyability announced that it had completed a successful Series C funding round, raising a total of 22 million Swiss francs (almost 23 million dollars).
Matternet Gets First Type Certification Ever Granted in the U.S.
This week at the conference, the FAA announced that Matternet had received the first standard type certificate ever granted in the U.S. The news is potentially huge for the drone industry. With type certification, drones can be approved for specific types of activities—like delivery—so that those who use them are pre-approved to do that activity and won’t necessarily need to secure additional waivers or approvals for it.
In the words of David Boulter, the Vice President of Flight Program Operations at the FAA, “Matternet is going to get their standard type certificate for their [M2] drone. That’s the first one . . . and this means a lot. There is a path that has been built. Hopefully that path gets better and better and more and more efficient.”
Teledyne FLIR’s New SIRAS Drone
Credit: Teledyne FLIR
One of the biggest releases this week at Commercial UAV Expo was Teledyne FLIR’s launch of a new professional drone with a dual thermal/visual payload. Called the SIRAS, the drone will provide high quality images for heavy duty commercial work. Based on what we’ve learned so far, it could be a serious competitor for drones like DJI’s Matrice 300 or Skydio’s X2E.
Notable Events & Talks
The new drone technology is always exciting to see at Commercial UAV Expo. But the talks are the heart of the conference, providing attendees with access to trends, insights, and the latest developments in the drone industry.
Here are some highlights from this week’s keynotes and other presentations.
Remote ID Implementation and the FAA’s Plan for Drone Regulations
The FAA’s deadline for manufacturers to start implementing Remote ID solutions on their drones is just one week away from today, on September 16, and this was directly addressed in this week’s talks. Skydio shared its plans to comply, but it seemed like other companies may not quite be ready to meet the deadline.
In a panel, David Boulter of the FAA said that rather than move the deadline, the FAA plans to take a collaborative approach with manufacturers who are working to address the requirement.
We’re going to use enforcement discretion on the September date. We’re going to work with manufacturers, and we’re going to keep making progress together.
– David Boulter, Vice President of Flight Program Operations at the FAA
Speaking more generally, Boulter went on to encourage collaboration, expressing the FAA’s strong interest in working with the drone industry, and that it’s working hard to open up different types of drone operations, like flying BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight).
The ROI of Commercial Drone Programs
One of the more interesting talks of the conference focused on the topic of ROI (Return on Investment) for commercial drone operations, covered in a discussion between Skydio’s CEO Adam Bry and UAV Expo Editor Jeremiah Karpowitz
Two key aspects Bry focused on were automation and reliability, outlining why autonomy is crucial for helping companies in any industry get the most ROI of using drones.
We’re at a place in the drone industry where people who are experts in drones have figured out to do all kinds of useful stuff, but you still need someone who is an expert to do that stuff. We think the smarter the drone gets, the more useful it is.
– Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio
Bry went on to point out that industry knowledge is a key part of successfully implementing a drone program—the more drone companies can know about the kinds of environments people actually work in and how they do their work, the more they can provide solutions to help with that work.
Panel of Women Leaders in the Drone Industry
A panel of women leaders in the drone industry highlighted the different career paths each had taken to arrive at their current roles, with the panelists sharing insights into how others can follow the trails they have blazed. The panel was moderated by Eszter Kovács from DroneTalks and included Candice McHargue, Okeoma Moronu, Abigail Smith, and Zehra Akbar.
Outdoor Flying Demonstrations
Despite the Las Vegas heat, over 300 people got up at 6:30 AM to see live drone demonstrations, and they were not disappointed. Eight different drone companies participated in the demos, showcasing their latest drone technology.
The companies that participated were:
- Ascent Aerosystems with its Spirit drone
- Autel Robotics with its Dragonfish Standard and Dragonfish Lite drones
- Commaris with its Seeker drone
- Frontier Precision and YellowScan with a LiDAR sensor on a Freefly AltaX drone
- Skydio with its Skydio 2+ drone
- Skyfront with its Perimeter 8 drone
- Volatus Aerospace with a variety of drones from other companies
- Wingtra with its WingtraOne GEN II drone
Pitch the Press Winners
As part of the conference, Commercial UAV Expo hosts a competition every year called Pitch the Press that invites exhibitors to pitch their products to a group of editors and reporters.
In the event, new companies get two minutes to pitch their company’s product to a panel of journalists. Companies only get to use one slide and can answer only two questions.
17 pitches were heard this year, and three were selected as the winners. According to Commercial UAV News editors, the three winners stood out for their impact on the environment, on human problems, and on the drone industry.
Credit: Air6 Systems
Austria-based Air6 Systems creates a product called DrSuit, which is a drone squadron for unmanned inspections of wind turbines. Off shored wind turbine inspections typically require several weeks to complete, and involve costly manual steps, including taking ships with large crews to the wind farms to inspect them manually. The traditional approach for these inspection is not only expensive, it’s also slow and inefficient from a fuel perspective.
The DrSuit solution replaces this process with an uncrewed ship that carried four drones. Working in concert, the four drones can inspect an entire wind farm in just on day. The approach only requires one round trip to the location, cutting the time needed by weeks and significantly reducing the fuel required for the work.
Consortiq creates immersive 3D models that combine interior and exterior views of buildings, allowing inspectors to make high quality digital twins of buildings for inspection purposes. Consortiq’s platform uses AI and ML analytics to integrate data collected both on the ground, from people carrying handheld LiDAR sensors as they walk through buildings, with data collected by air from drones, resulting in a virtual walk through of a building or asset.
Credit: Wonder Robotics
Wonder Robotics creates a sensor called WonderLand that can be attached to a drone to provide real-time “vertical awareness” so the drone can land safely, even in chaotic or dynamic circumstances. For example, if a delivery drone has to land suddenly, the WonderLand sensor helps it come down safely without hitting anything in its path.