The UK Commercial UAV show in London has been running since 2014. I have only been in the UAV business for a year and this was the first one I attended. I had been to similar exhibitions and conferences such as GeoBusiness and Digital Construction. I must say I was underwhelmed…a sentiment that has since been similarly expressed on some of the PfCO and drone forums.  
Trade exhibitions and conferences are always a good opportunity to pre-arrange to meet up with people you have not seen for a while, or who might be harder to track down as they are scattered across the country. Met up with Andy Carman (ARC Aerial Imaging), Stephen Timewell (Drone User Magazine), Julian Coleman (Lease the Drone), Elena Major and Graham Brown (ARPAS), Alex Douglas (Commercial Drone Professional magazine), Steve Coulson (COPTRZ), Phil Binks (Altitude Angel) and Anne-Lise Scaillierez (The Drone Office). 
 
The organisers describe the show as: "Europe's Largest Commercial UAV Show" 
The Commercial UAV Show exhibition is where leading solution providers can showcase the full range of innovation in the commercial UAV sector, from the latest UAV designs to revolutionary new technology to support the floating market. The Commercial UAV Show will feature senior representatives of the UAV world. Leaders in their field who will share how they are planning to integrate UAVs successfully into their global operations across multiple verticals. 
 
Doesn’t sound good. Apart from catching up, what was the show good for and what did the 80 or so exhibitors have to offer SME and sole-trader drone operator? 
 
As someone on one of the forums mentioned recently, there seems to be a proliferation of drone companies offering services to other drone companies to help them expand their business. As with GeoBusiness and Digital Construction a significant number of exhibitors were software companies offering various mapping, surveying, volumetric, and inspection flight planning software, and data analysis and GIS presentation. Global Mapper, Scopito, Reality Capture, PIX4D and Blue Marble Geographics. iRed had one of the largest stands at the exhibition and had a full display of their thermal imaging, photogrammetry, aerial measured surveying, inspection and remote sensing courses. 
 
Other professional service providers on show were Julian Coleman’s Lease the Drone, insurers Flock and Coverdrone, An indication the industry is definitely under scrutiny was the presence of several companies, such as Trilateral Research and Drone Rules, offering advice on law, privacy and GDPR. Companies offering to find jobs for drone operators were represented by Pilot Portal and Quote4Drones. DroneStream displayed their new live-streaming from drones service. Associations and regulators ARPAS, Royal Aeronautical Society and the CAA were also in attendance. 
 
Academia and research institutions were heavily represented, including the engineering departments of universities such as Bristol, UCL, Aberdeen, Loughborough, Nottingham Trent, Sheffield, Central Lancashire and Wrexham, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Overseas universities came from Korea, Croatia and Germany. There were also a couple of other educational providers. Humanitarian aid organisations Medecins sans Frontieres and Wings for Aid were keen to show how drones are being used to deliver vital medical aid to remote communities. 
 
The Japanese, Chinese and Koreans were in numbers, mainly promoting heavy rigs. DJI was almost invisible. Beijing TT Aviation Technology was promoting sub-20kg drones designed for agricultural use, specifically crop spraying. The full-spec rigs were priced at $8,000! I am sure there is an opportunity here to remove DJI and Yuneec from the agricultural scene altogether. French elistair had tethered drones on display, and there was Evolve Dynamics Sky Mantis and Intel’s Falcon 8. Green-eyed envy came when talking to the Germans, Americans and Spanish who were promoting their BVLOS proving grounds and describing the sheer scale of the air corridors they work in. 
 
Apart from the exhibitors, the show organisers said there were some 200 talks held over the two days. The talks covered developments in aircraft technology, command and control systems, urban UAS innovations, UAV data workflows, 3D visualizations, and European regulations. There were one or two talks on mapping and surveying techniques, market updates and career prospects. It needed more talks on practical subjects that would help drone operators make money at the end of the day. 
 
All in all, you could have a rather pleasant day out at the show but for the small operator, there was not anything really to help you thrive or survive in this industry. Academia and research far outweighed current practical applications, and you can sometimes be overwhelmed by the range of mapping, surveying, inspection and flight planning software out there. We need something geared toward the SME who uses drones on a day-to-day basis to pay the bills. 
 
What is needed is a commercial UAV exhibition and conference aimed at PfCO holders with the express intention of improving revenues, expanding the market, and building operator knowledge and competence in the various sectors. From gauging the comments on the various drone forums, the two-day event should be held in the North of England at a venue with a large outside arena for demonstrations, and without any FRZ or other safety concerns. 
 
The event would include an equipment exhibition and trade-stands, and workshops and talks on subjects relevant to UK PfCOs. Suggestions include:- 
Workshops 
Drone repairs and servicing – bring YouTube videos to life. With engineers from DJI, Yuneec and Parrot. 
Operation Safety Cases – what skills, experience and information is required. 
PfCO/OSC renewals – advice shop. 
Congested areas. 
Travelling and working abroad. 
Night Flying. 
Specialist Photography and Videography. 
Risk assessments. 
 
Sector advice on the opportunities and how to approach potential clients, the terminology used in each sector, the rigs and sensors needed, and the training courses available. 
Construction and civil engineering 
Quarrying 
Mapping and Surveying 
Inspections (buildings, towers, wind turbines, solar farms, power cables and internal) 
Agriculture 
Real Estate 
Utilities 
Network Rail 
Public Sector 
Emergency Services 
TV and film production companies. 
 
Meet the Buyers 
Representatives from the potential large-scale users of drone services. Eg:- 
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors 
Facilities Management Association 
Institute of Civil Engineering 
British Aggregates Association 
Environment Agency 
Local Government Association 
Institute of Insurance Brokers 
 
Exhibition and trade stands 
Equipment displays and trade stands. Sponsored by manufacturers and retailers. 
Software showroom. Sponsored by software developers and providers, especially for mapping, surveying and inspections. 
Individual drone operators and companies which might offer specialist services to other operators. Eg: flying under their OSC. 
NQEs and other specialist training providers. 
 
Other services 
Electronic flight logs. AirData, Drone Desk. 
Insurance for drones, flights and public liability. Flock, Coverdrone, Moonrock. 
Drone and equipment leasing. 
Regulations. CAA, NATS and Altitude Angel. 
Privacy and GDPR. 
Public Relations and handling the media. 
 
Other activities 
Indoor/outdoor FPV and drone racing. 
Outdoor arena for practical demonstrations. 
Search and Rescue demonstrations. 
 
If the idea of a commercial UAV show for PfCOs sparks an interest, please email adrian@kent-drone-surveys.co.uk and let me know what you would like to see at a real commercial UAV show that would be of real value to PfCOs in the UK…and which you would attend. 
Tagged as: Commercial UAV Show
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