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AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2020 Is Next Week—Have You Seen the Keynote Lineup?

BY Zacc Dukowitz
1 October 2020

AUVSI’s annual XPONENTIAL conference starts next Monday, October 5, and runs through Thursday, October 8.

There are several reasons to consider attending this year, including the six co-located events happening alongside the conference, the XCELLENCE Awards, and AUVSI’s creative approach to organizing its educational tracks, which uses a cross-pollination approach to encourage dialogue across industries.

But as the conference approaches, one of the things that has us most excited is the keynote lineup—keep reading to learn more about all of the keynote speakers on deck for next week’s conference.

Want to attend XPONENTIAL 2020? A BOGO flash sale is running now through noon on Friday, October 2—use the promo code XPO20BOGO to get a free pass when you register at full price.

Missed the flash sale? Use the code UAVCXPO20 to get $5 off admission to the XPO hall and $50 off admission to the full conference. Register here.

Keynote Speakers at XPONENTIAL 2020

Listed below are the keynote speakers featured at AUVSI XPONENTIAL this year, organized chronologically.

Tuesday, October 6


Tim Arel began his FAA career as an air traffic controller in 1989, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and has a background in Public Safety, having worked as an emergency medical technician, firefighter, and police officer.

Tim is passionate about realizing the great possibilities that unmanned and autonomous systems can provide. He firmly believes in leveraging government and industry’s collective experience to create solutions that support the safe integration of new entrants into the airspace. This requires ongoing collaboration with industry and government stakeholders, risk-based decision-making, transparency, and data sharing. Under Tim’s leadership, the FAA continues to develop robust technologies that facilitate the safe integration of drone and commercial space operations into the airspace.


Dr. Robert D. Ballard has served in the U.S. Navy for more than 30 years, and he is the founder and president of the Ocean Exploration Trust, the director of the Center for Ocean Exploration, and professor of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.

Dr. Ballard is widely considered a pioneer in the development of deep-sea submersibles and remotely operated vehicle (ROVs) systems, and he has made several important discoveries over the course of his 155+ deep-sea expeditions. Some of those discoveries include finding John F. Kennedy’s boat, PT-109; the discovery of hydrothermal vents and “black smokers” in the Galapagos Rift and East Pacific Rise in 1977 and 1979; and the discovery of the RMS Titanic in 1985. Dr. Ballard has been featured in several National Geographic television programs, including ‘Secrets of the Titanic,’ and he was a special advisor to Steven Spielberg on the futuristic television show ‘seaQuest DSV.’


James Burgess is CEO of Wing, an Alphabet company that provides drone delivery and traffic management services. ​He joined the organization in 2012 and has held a number of business and engineering leadership roles. James is also an inventor on a number of patents related to Wing.

Prior to his time at Wing, James innovated in robotics and energy startup companies and lived in India for several years bringing renewable energy to off-grid villages. He studied mechanical and electrical engineering at Caltech.

Wednesday, October 7


Desiree (Desi) Matel-Anderson is the Chief Wrangler of the Field Innovation Team (FIT), a role in which she has worked with communities across the world. She has been described as the MacGyver of the disaster world, helping to empower survivors to think beyond their current predicament and disrupt the status quo to build resilience.

The first (and now former) chief innovation adviser at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Desi currently serves as a consultant on innovation for agencies and governments, nationally and internationally, including in an advisor role to the European Emergency Management Consortium in UNESCO’s I-REACT team. She was also recently appointed to the United States National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

Some of the projects that she has been involved in include assisting at the scene with social media analysis during the Boston Marathon bombings; deploying drones and 3D print topography maps for incident command after the Oso, Washington, mudslides; using artificial-intelligence robots for psychosocial services in Syrian refugee camps; implementing survivor-to-survivor guides after the Fort McMurray wildfires in Alberta, Canada; and using public-health gaming to educate the Miami-Dade public school system on the Zika virus outbreak.

Desi is also the author of Future Survivor:


Robert Pearce manages NASA’s aeronautics research portfolio and guides its strategic direction, including research in quiet supersonic flight over land, urban air mobility, autonomy, highly efficient advanced air vehicle concepts, electrified aircraft propulsion, advanced materials, airspace operations and safety, integration and flight demonstrations of aviation systems, and the nurturing and development of transformative concepts for aviation.

Prior to his work with NASA, Robert was ARMD’s deputy associate administrator for strategy, where he led aeronautics research mission strategic planning to guide the content, strategic progress and relevance of ARMD’s research portfolio and led review and evaluation of ARMD’s budget and approval process. From 2003 until July 2010, Pearce was the deputy director of the FAA-led Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO).

Thursday, October 8


Dr. Cara LaPointe is a futurist who focuses on the intersection of technology, policy, ethics, and leadership. She has accumulated a wealth of knowledge related to autonomous and unmanned technologies throughout her career.

In her 20+ years in the United States Navy, Dr. LaPointe held a variety of roles in areas such as autonomous systems and unmanned vehicle technology integration. At the Deep Submergence Lab of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), she developed sensor fusion algorithms for deep-ocean autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) navigation while researching underwater autonomy and robotics. With a Doctor of Philosophy awarded jointly by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and WHOI, Dr. LaPointe currently serves as the co-director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Assured Autonomy, where she helps ensure that autonomous systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy as they continue integrating into all aspects of our lives.


Keenan Wyrobek is co-founder and head of product and engineering at Zipline, the world’s first drone delivery service whose focus is delivering life-saving medicine to the most difficult to reach places on earth.

Prior to his work at Zipline, Keenan was a co-founder and director of the Personal Robotics Program at Willow Garage. He was involved in launching and growing the Robot Operating System (ROS) and shipping PR2, the first personal robot for software R&D.

Other Top Keynotes

In addition to the speakers listed above, XPONENTIAL 2020 will feature these high profile keynote speakers:

  • Mark Blanks, Director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.
  • Tim Gallaudet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator.
  • Marc Raibert, Founder and Chairman of Boston Dynamics.
  • Duke Richardson, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics United States Airforce.
  • Jason Stack, Director of the Ocean, Atmosphere, & Space Research Division at the Office of Naval Research.
  • Brian Wynne, President and CEO of AUVSI.

Learn more about these speakers and their backgrounds on the AUVSI XPONENTIAL website.

Want to attend XPONENTIAL 2020? A BOGO flash sale is running now through noon on Friday, October 2—use the promo code XPO20BOGO to get a free pass when you register at full price.

Missed the flash sale? Use the code UAVCXPO20 to get $5 off admission to the XPO hall and $50 off admission to the full conference. Register here.

If you plan to attend the conference next week, hop into this thread in the UAV Coach community forum to share your plans and network with other attendees.

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