2021 FAA drone conference to be held virtually again (and people are still outraged by the price)

Most drone conferences in 2020 were cancelled or postponed. But while most drone conferences are coming back in person for 2021, one of the most relevant is remaining virtual — while still charging $375 to attend. The 2021 FAA drone conference — formally dubbed the 6th Annual FAA UAS Symposium will run online-only this year between June 9-10 and again from Sept. 14-15.

The cost to attend all four days as an industry attendee is $375. That’s the same rate that the conference charged in 2020 — and people were outraged by it.

Yet again in 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual UAS symposium is moving forward as a virtual drone conference spread into two parts over two separate sets of days for a total of four days worth of webinars.

Part 1 of the 6th Annual FAA UAS Symposium, referred to as Episode III (to follow Episodes 1 and 2 of the 5th annual symposium that was in 2020), will run from June 9-10, 2021. Part II, referred to as Episode IV , will be held Sept. 14-15, 2021. The annual event is run in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

The total cost to attend all four days for the 2020 conference was also $375 — and many drone industry participants were pretty upset about being charged that much to watch online videos. Given the fact that virtual conferences don’t need to rent out ballrooms, hire staff members to run registration boots and provide coffee, many felt the price as steep. Throw in the fact that COVID-19 hurt a lot of businesses — especially small business owners — and that’s a big cost to swallow.

If you attend under certain criteria (such as being a student) or you attend for fewer days, you may save some money. Here’s the full cost breakdown for the 6th Annual FAA UAS Symposium:

Pass typeCost
Both Episodes — Industry$375
Both Episodes — Government + Military + Public Safety + Student$299
Per Episode — Industry$249
Per Episode — Government + Military + Public Safety + Student$175
Per Episode — One Day$150

That said, the virtual conference is still much cheaper than what it would have cost in-person. The price of a full pass for the 2019 FAA UAS Symposium was a steep $769 — about double the price of the in-person one.

Read more: Speaking at virtual drone conferences vs. in-person ones

“Registration fees are necessary to produce a high-quality event and reflect the resources required to support the creation and management of this virtual experience,” according to a post on the FAA’s symposium website. “The symposium features four days of programming via an interactive virtual platform to educate and inform stakeholders throughout the UAS industry about the rules, regulations, and best practices for operating safely and securely in the airspace.”

Included in the cost of the virtual conference is more than just tuning into videos. The FAA says you’ll get access to virtually-staffed resource centers, virtual product exhibits, and one-to-one chatrooms for scheduled and organic networking with other attendees.

Read more: Surprising stat proves there’s big money to be made at drone conferences

Read more: How to get paid to speak at drone conferences

That said — here’s a pro-tip if you want to tune in to the 2021 FAA drone conference without paying $375. Just be patient. The 2020 version has since been posted online to YouTube — and it’s free to watch. We anticipate the 2021 will be eventually made public too.

And while the 2021 FAA drone conference will be virtual, there are other, non-FAA ones being held, IRL. If you’d rather attend an in-person drone conference, check out our guide to 2021 drone conferences.

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