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Surprising stat proves there’s money to be made at drone conferences

Ever wonder the value of attending, presenting at or buying table space on the show floor of a drone conference? This surprising stat proves there’s big money to be made at drone conferences.

27% of attendees at drone conference say they’re looking to spend more than $20,000 on drone technology, according to a survey of 2019 Interdrone attendees, done by Emerald, an event and marketing company that puts on conferences including RFID Journal Live, Photo Plus and, yes, Interdrone.

The stat indicates that the drone industry is growing beyond just prosumer drones. Sub-$1,000 drones like the Mavic drones made by DJI are certainly abundant — after all, DJI has an estimated market share of more than 70%. But with attendees looking to spend more than $20,000, it’s clear they’re looking to buy more than just prosumer-grade equipment.

Note that the survey was put on by a big conference company, so there may be some bias in the results. After all, Interdrone makes money from selling sponsorships, table spaces and registrations: it costs $5,500 to have your logo on their lanyards, $2,500 to have your name on their pens, or $7,500 to plaster your brand on the swag bags. Vertical Title sponsorship costs an even heftier $20,000, while sponsorship for the Women in Drones luncheon costs $10,000.

drone conferences industries represented
Data provided and visualized by Interdrone reveals the primary industries that attended their 2019 conference, among other details.

But it’s hard to argue that there’s not big money to be made in the drone industry — and at conference in particular — especially as companies turn their attention to enterprise-grade versions of popular, consumer-focused models.

Skydio, known for its “crash-proof” follow-me drone that targets action sports and cinematographers just this month announced Skydio X2, a family of drones equipped with thermal cameras, designed specifically for various types of enterprise use cases. It’s a similar move to one DJI made last year, when the Chinese drone giant announced the Mavic 2 Enterprise and later Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, both industrial versions of its Mavic 2 drone, which is focused at photographers.

Plus, there could be a tax benefit to attending conferences. Typically you can write off business expenses related to the conference. You can typically deduct costs including transportation, lodging, 50% of the cost of meals while you’re there (or traveling there), as well as other conference fees like registration. Just remember to look into how to handle taxes. You can easily speak to a credentialed tax expert online from your home in San Francisco or anywhere else in the United States.  

Interdrone who attends drone conferences 73% of drone conference attendees say they attend to discover new products
Data compiled and visualized by Interdrone shows who attended their conference in 2019.

What’s more, 73% of drone conference attendees say they attend to discover new products, despite the fact that 26% of attendees said they have already worked in the drone space for 4 or more years. 38% of attendees have sole purchasing responsibility, according to the Interdrone survey.

Beyond the drones themselves, companies are looking to augment their drones with other (often expensive) hardware that might be appealing to longtime drone industry veterans. For example, FLIR this month announced Hadron, a dual sensor module for drones.

And it’s not just drone hardware that’s rapidly growing and improving. A huge chunk of spending is now going to software companies, which often charge subscriptions for services like data storage, aerial analytics or mapping software, airspace management platforms, and even Part 107 certification training.

One of the biggest drone mapping software providers, DroneDeploy, this month announced massive expansion in users and usage. Its customers have now mapped a collective 150 million acres — 1/3 of which were mapped in just the past 8 months. And Kittyhawk, which offers a service primarily know for making LAANC authorization requests, reported that requests have hit record highs.

That said, the stat comes at an interesting time — as people rethink the value of attending drone conferences in the wake of coronavirus. Most major drone conferences have either been cancelled or postponed. In fact, Interdrone postponed its annual 2020 conference from August to December, while other big conferences like NAB 2020 were cancelled completely.

And some drone conferences have gone for the hybrid of the two — moving their conferences online. One conference, the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual UAS symposium, drew ire for charging $375 to dial into the remote version, which was essentially a series of webinars with chat features. Drone industry participants said that without the value of networking, coupled with the fact that the FAA is a government agency as is, the conference via should have been a lot less. For comparison, DJI is hosting its own conference this August with ticket prices between $35 and $99.

Are you planning to attend a drone conference this year? Are you skipping this year’s conferences due to the pandemic? Are you skipping due to another reason?

Leave a comment about whether or not you’re attending conferences — and why you attend conferences — below!

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