InterDrone: What's Next
Cody Vanderholm, HTS Ag

InterDrone: The International Drone Conference & Exposition is the largest drone conference and exposition. There were sessions and speakers packed into this conference. The sessions at the conference ranged from Construction, Mining and Aggregates, Precision Agriculture, Surveying and Mapping, Energy Inspection, Infrastructure Inspection, and Public Safety. Per their website, InterDrone states this conference is where the industry congregates to learn about the newest commercial drone technologies from top speakers.

Dan Elwell from the FAA stated in his keynote that the FAA wants to help get drones up safely and help the pilots understand the rules. He gave an example of a video crew that happen to set up in the FAA field office and so they proceeded outside to ask if they had they Section 107 license. The crew did not. Instead of fining them, the field office took the time to sit down with the crew, help them register the drone and walk them through the process of getting their Section 107 license. To everyone at the conference, this showed how much they want to work with everyone to fly safely. The biggest challenge for agriculture right now is BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight). The FAA has been working with NASA to do trials and tests over remote areas, even in rural populated areas. This has proved to be successful and testing has moved into urban areas now as well. Joseph Rios with NASA went through a presentation that showed the progress and where they are moving next to test. This was the topic that several sessions covered as being a complication and the FAA is working with NASA to find a safe way to accomplish this challenge.

One of the sessions at InterDrone was about Spray Drones in Agriculture. Now this is a very buzzy topic (pun intended) but drones haven't reached their full potential for agriculture use. Another challenge that was brought up in this session was the labels that are on the chemicals that we use in agriculture. After going through a couple labels, it was clear that this is going to prove to be a battle to get some wording changed. Without the change, spray drones aren't going to be a possibility in the future. Another topic that was addressed at InterDrone was the ability to count animals with the use of a drone. This is technology that they are working on but have not quite got it harnessed yet, so look for that down the road as well.

An interesting fact came from the DJI Keynote. In 2006, they had 20 employees. Think about that number for a minute. DJI has the largest share of sales in the drone industry. Every other manufacturer is chasing them for market share. Today they have about 12,000 employees. And if my memory serves me right, about a quarter of them are in research and development. This number just goes to show how much impact drones will have in the future of businesses.

After all the information attained and packed into the sessions from InterDrone this year, the biggest challenges that we face in the agriculture world is BVLOS and certain other restrictions. There are over 100,000 drone pilots today and that job didn't exist four years ago. This market is expanding faster than we ever dreamed. I'll leave you with a quote from Dan Elwell with the FAA, "What drones will do for aviation is what the internet did for information."
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