Everyone is wondering when the rules will be announced that allow commercial operations of unmanned aircraft systems, also known as UAS or drones—and when they are announced, what will they say? The topic has gained the attention of people at the highest levels of the government, as well as entrepreneurs, manufacturers and software developers. Instead of waiting for all the details to be worked out, many are jumping into the new market space in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage and attracting early adopters. The exciting prospects of this formerly military-focused technology have captured the imagination of people in a diverse range of commercial industries. Drone World Expo intends to bring those people together for two days of information sharing and learning, Nov. 17-18 at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, Calif.

"We are excited to announce the launch of Drone World Expo, the only event in the industry to be held in Silicon Valley focusing on the use of drones for commercial applications in industries such as cinematography, agriculture, utilities, oil and gas, mining and real estate, and more," said Joel Davis, president, JD Events, producer of the event.  "We have compiled a dynamic board of advisors, who represent many of these industries and bring a breadth and depth of knowledge to assist in the development of the content for the educational program, making Drone World Expo the only event produced for the commercial drone industry by the commercial drone industry."

A critical part of the show’s vision is to have an exhibit floor with over 100 booths that represent the most up-to-date drone software and hardware technology for commercial applications. The conference program will feature keynotes by industry luminaries, and 30–50 educational workshops specifically focused on case studies and examples of how drones are being used today in the real world. Flying and technical demonstrations will round out the program. Approximately 1,200–1,500 participants are expected to make up a highly qualified business-to-business audience.

The diverse knowledge and backgrounds of the board of advisors is instrumental in developing a conference program that provides value to all participants. The advisors bring many years of experience in business development, regulatory affairs, start-ups and high-tech, as well as subject matter expertise for specific industries such as robotics, agriculture and oil and gas. The board is a microcosm of the future attendees and is responsible for driving the content to be relevant and meaningful. The size of the board will double in February to include experts from additional vertical markets.

Gretchen West, vice president of business development and regulatory affairs at DroneDeploy, a provider of SaaS solutions for drone operators, is on the board of advisors. “I joined the board of advisors for Drone World Expo because Joel Davis has a vision for the show that matches what I personally would look for in a conference. Rather than listening to lectures about technology, I am interested in case studies and end users and what tools they need to accomplish their work," she said. "I want to bring end users and manufacturers together in the same room to solve problems because that has real value.”

“The format of the Drone World Expo could change the face of conferences going forward,” West said. “Other shows focus on the platform rather than the applications and the product delivered to the end user. We’re making a meaningful push to focus on commercial applications for every possible industry. And we’re also emphasizing the opportunity to network to meet potential customers, other manufacturers, and possible partners by creating an event attended by people who represent the whole ecosystem, not just the sell side.”

To further emphasize the focus on commercial applications, Davis decided to use the word “drone” instead of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or RPAS (remotely piloted aircraft system), terms which are commonly used in the defense world. “The general public recognizes what a drone is, although sometimes in a negative context, but they probably don’t understand UAV or UAS at all," Davis said. "I believe that as commercial drones increasingly become part of our daily lives, the word will be seen in a much more positive light.”

Despite the FAA rule-making being a very slow process, there is optimism for some progress this year that reflects the needs of the industry for greater access to air space for commercial operations. There are many people willing to invest now to be ready when that day comes.

“Our primary goal at Drone World Expo is to create the most important and relevant annual conference and networking forum for all commercial markets involved in drone technology,” Davis said. “We will consider the first year a success when we assemble the largest gathering of end users and manufacturers in one place to develop ideas and strategies. In the future, we want to be the one ‘can’t miss’ conference for exchanging information and providing education about commercial applications for drones. We’re prepared to make the necessary investment in time and resources to accomplish that, and because we are an independent entity, rather than an industry association or publication, we are not biased toward any one market and have no political agenda. This will be a key factor in the success of the conference.”