Recently the UAV Expo of 2022 was held in Las Vegas. It has been an ever growing conference of leaders and engineers who are heavily focused and invested in promoting positive use cases of drones. The commercial drone industry is viewed as a $43.1 billion dollar technology market(1) and conferences like this give us a glimpse into its future.
This year’s conference focused on many specific questions for the industry. It included new technology developments, efficiency, quantifying value, mainstream adoption, and much more. For anyone interested in how the world will look in the future as a result of UAV technology, look no further.
It is always great to connect with fellow Drone Nerds and get key updates, as the industry is rapidly changing, growing, and new use cases are arriving daily. Connecting once every 12 months seems like an eternity!
In my opinion, there was heavy emphasis on all things LiDAR, LiDAR, LiDAR…mainly because the cost is coming down and the sheer number of use cases is immense. Doing things “the way they’ve always been done” seems to be changing with new efficiencies. There were numerous presentations where these efficiencies have cut turnaround times by 30%-90% — resulting in savings or efficiencies that can be measured in six figures or more for large agriculture and energy companies in the U.S.
There were also updates on the maturity of the drone industry, new use cases, and RID/UAM/UTM traffic management systems. “Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) is a ‘traffic management’ ecosystem for uncontrolled operations that is separate from, but complementary to, the FAA’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) system.”
Basically, UTM is the developing vision for managing the airspace with ongoing drone operations conducted beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS), where air traffic control is not routinely used. The plan is for RID technology to provide continuous, real-time airspace status between drone operators and the FAA.
Chuck shares some of his key takeaways from the 2022 Commercial UAV Expo. This is not a comprehensive analysis of the conference, but his major impressions of issues that were most important.
Can indoor inspections be drastically improved for dangerous sites like nuclear plants? Flyability’s Elios 3 thinks so. The indoor inspections the Elios 3 can now conduct are game-changing! The new advancements with the Elios allows for “real-time” analytics of areas that typically deny drone operations. Users can receive real-time visuals of data being captured by the sensors to get a full picture of what the drone is seeing. In addition, Elios has upped their game with LiDAR sensors in addition to the thermal sensors that have historically been available.
Drone delivery is being touted as the future, but why hasn’t it happened? Has the Matternet M2 or Strix’ DroneDrop found the solution?
1UP Drones’ Chuck Adams believes drone delivery has the potential to revolutionize healthcare and e-commerce in the years ahead. However, we also realize that delivering various goods with UAVs raises all sorts of challenges with regulations, technology, and overall logistics. Some of the best organizations are working through these issues. Companies large and small must solve challenges that are specific to:
At the 2022 UAV Expo, representatives from Wing, Manna, and Zipline came together for a discussion about the opportunities these applications and others will open up for the future, highlighting connections and next steps that attendees should be actively considering. While there was no “magic wand” answers to these difficult questions, there continues to be progress with the FAA in new regulations that must be met in order for package delivery via drones to become a reality and continue the progress.
For the drone industry to take it to the next level, Chuck says it’s going to live and die by the regulations. The FAA moves slow, but steady to help guarantee safety. “The technology is changing so rapidly that it is hard for the FAA to hit a moving target, and it’s hard for those targets (the drone manufacturers) to effectively align their products with what the FAA is regulating.”
For example, Draganfly announced three new significant products at the conference:
There didn’t seem to be much mention of drones and how they have been used in Ukraine. Chuck didn’t locate a single presentation dedicated to drone use in Ukraine. Rather than the expo being afraid to address the topic, a more likely reason for this was the expo’s overall purpose: it was a “commercial” UAV expo, not focused on military or even public use cases.
However, drones have definitely changed the war in Ukraine and given the enemy unheard of advantages from previous wars. Off-the-shelf consumer drones are being used by the Ukranians for reconnaissance and dropping DIY bombs.
Overall, the 2022 Commercial UAV Expo was a valuable gathering of some of the best minds and companies in the drone industry to showcase new and emerging technologies. Drones are here to stay, of course, and their value in commercial ventures has tremendous potential. The broad possibilities are yet to be seen, but the future looks both promising and exciting.
(1) Drone Industry Insights