Commercial UAV Show 2017

November 20, 2017 2:28 pm Published by

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A personal perspective.

So they say no good deed goes unpunished.  Well being a voluntary Director of the U.K. Trade Association, ARPAS-UK can certainly feel this way sometimes!

I volunteered to attend the show on behalf of the Association some months back.  Great I thought, an opportunity to meet old members, canvass for new members and catch up with some industry stalwarts.  I may name these folk later!  But as is often the way with these things, my reasons for being in the southeast of the country went away and then a last minute project came up in Scotland.

To cut a very long story short, ROAVR deployed to Knoydart in the Scottish Highlands (there are no roads there by the way!) early on Tuesday morning.  Our ferry arrived back on the mainland at 16:00 the same day at Mallaig and I had to be in London the following morning.  After waving a cheery goodbye to my less than supportive colleagues I raced down the road to England-shire.

The show this year was held at the Excel Centre in the London Docklands.  This is actually a surprisingly easy place to get to whether driving or using public transport.  I even bumped into some Scottish colleagues on Day 2 who had flown straight into London City, so top marks for the venue!

What was not so clear initially was whether was in the right place or had the right day.  There was no signage for the show until I was well embedded into the Excel Centre.  Eventually I found the show in Hall S11 at the eastern extremity of the centre.

I arrived around 11:00 on Day 1 and having pre-registered virtually walked straight in.  A real bonus at these things!

The first thing to strike me was how quiet the show was.  Now whether this was due to the large hall and well spread stands or whether actually footfall was down, only the organisers can say.

As you walked in you were greeted by a mix of small ‘prosumer’ platforms and larger fixed wing systems.  Evidence that these shows still have a bit of an identity crisis and really seem to be unsure who they are aiming for.  After all there is no ‘drone industry’.  They are merely tools in the toolbox in a number of sectors.

I quickly locate the ARPAS-UK stand where my colleague Paul had done a sterling job of setting it out.  He himself had a very early start from Norfolk and was glad of the opportunity to grab a coffee!  We really do rely heavily on the good nature of our ARPAS-UK Directors and support from members at these events.

Throughout the next two days a few opportunities arose to explore the show although sadly I didn’t get to listen to any of the excellent speakers.

What was apparent, was that the show has matured a lot over the last few years.  There were far fewer manufacturers and those that were there tended to be showing sensor and payload packages rather than after pure machine sales.  I would have loved to have spent more time questioning these vendors but sadly couldn’t.

Also apparent were the multitude of ‘software solutions’.  There is a real trend toward flight operation management tools as drones become more automated and the skill set of the users is potentially degrading.  It seems accountable managers in new sectors are looking long and hard for the right product to manage their operations and perhaps offset some of the responsibility.

The cynic in me tends to think that a large number of these solution providers have their eyes on the bigger picture.  That is that sooner or later higher risk operations (think CONOPS and EASA) will require some form of UTM and that whoever wins the UTM race will be able to affectively monetise the lower airspace.  What isn’t in doubt is the fact that taking safety seriously, I mean truly having a robust safe system of works, wins you those tenders and safety should not just be paid lip service.

At ROAVR we were early adopters of the CQNet system from ConsortiQ.  What attracted us to this product was the fact that it has been developed by actual operators with real world experience, not a software engineer behind a desk.  No it isn’t perfect yet, but it is moving in the right direction. The product is supported by those at the sharp end which can only mean speedy development and consolidation of operational planning.

By far the highlight for myself was dialogue with ARPAS-UK members.  It is striking just how much the Association has changed over the past years and great to see where our members are pushing the envelope of what is possible with small RPAS across many many sectors.  Many thanks to the members that helped to man the stand.  They know who they are and will get a shout out in a ARPAS post at a latter date.

As an added bonus I was able to catch up with friends and colleagues I hadn’t seen for perhaps a year.  The networking at these kind of events is always the most valuable part!

To finish the show as it started, it became apparent part of our stand was missing, meaning we could not wheel it easily.  No biggie I thought, except myself and my colleague Rupert had to try and extract the stand right through Excel and down several flights of stairs!

Until next time!

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This post was written by roavr