After pretty much every drone conference in 2020 was cancelled or went virtual, you’re probably itching to get out and travel this year to talk to other dronies in the real world. And to make up for a lost year of meetups, the 2021 drone conference lineup is packed. Two of the biggest conferences you’re likely deciding between are AUVSI vs Interdrone. So which one should you attend?
AUVSI vs Interdrone: the basics
AUVSI XPONENTIAL and Interdrone are two of the biggest annual drone conferences in the world. They’re happening back-to-back from each other, both spanning the weeks of mid-August.
- Location: The Hyatt Regency in Dallas, Texas
- Date: August 10-12, 2021
- Ticket pricing: $715 for full conference pass
- Discounts available? Discounted rates for eligible government, education and non-profit employees, and for groups of three or more
- Location: Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia
- Date: August 16-19, 2021
- Ticket pricing: $609 for full conference pass for AUVSI members ($709 for non-members)
- Discounts available? Discounted rates for industry, student, public safety professionals and government/military: $369 for AUVSI members ($429 for non-members)
If you’re only available on one of those weeks, or you’re particularly drawn to one of the above cities, then your decision is easy.
Weigh the cost
When it comes to full conference passes, AUVSI XPONENTIAL is about $100 cheaper. That said, if you’re interested in the expo hall only, Interdrone is actually cheaper. It’s $129 (member rate) or $159 (general rate) for AUVSI vs Interdrone charging just $90.
If you’re not set on going to all the individual workshops, classes and panels, then Interdrone might turn out to be a swell deal. The Interdrone $90 expo only pass still gets you into keynotes, coffee breaks and networking sessions, which is largely what most attendees are there for.
Also factor in other costs of getting and staying there. Lodging can be expensive, but if you have someone you can stay with in one of those cities, then that might ease your decision. Atlanta is a Delta hub, while Dallas is an American Airlines hub. Brush off any Delta Air Lines SkyMiles or American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer miles. A free flight might also make your decision easier.
Consider the classes, workshops and seminars (and who is leading them)
While many attendees go to conferences for the networking, many are there to learn something new or level up their skill set. Consider the field you work in (or the field you’d like to learn more about) and whether the workshops match your interests.
Though to make the decision harder, most conferences have a air amount of overlap. For example, both AUVSI vs Interdrone offer high-quality seminars in using drones for emergency response. Interdrone is hosting a UAS First Responder Summit. But over at XPONENTIAL, there’s a Global Public Safety UAS Summit led by DroneResponders.
Interdrone speakers and workshops
Some of the top speakers already slated for Interdrone 2021 include Dawn Zoldi of P3 Tech Consulting, former DJI Senior Director of Public Safety Integration (and now Auterion Vice President of Public Safety) Romeo Durscher, and Kansas State University Executive Director of Aviation Strategy Lindsey Dreiling, who also sits on the FAA’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board.
Interdrone groups its workshops into five conference tracks, which are:
- GeoDrone – Surveying and Mapping
- AECDrone – Construction
- UAS First Responder Summit
- Inspection Drone – Energy & Infrastructure
- Drone Nexus – Business, Policy, and Imaging
XPONENTIAL speakers and workshops
At XPONENTIAL, each day delves into one of the three categories, which are:
- Policy + Governance and Society
- Public Acceptance
The Technology day is led by Luke Fox, CEO of WhiteFox Defense Technologies. Policy day is led by Michelle Duquette of The MITRE Corporation, and Public Acceptance day is led by Selika Talbott of Autonomous Vehicle Consulting.
Consider who is running the show
The conferences are run by two very different organizations. AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2021 is run by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an international nonprofit organization working to advance use of unmanned robotics. The group has close ties to the Federal Aviation Administration. In fact, the organization partners with the FAA every year to help run its annual UAS Symposium. Thus, expect a higher-than-average rate of people who either work in government, or who work in adjacent positions such as lobbying, in attendance. Especially if your work is in an area that could leverage FAA expertise, then attending XPONENTIAL could be an opportunity to network with the right people who could benefit your business.
Interdrone is run by Emerald Expositions, which is a company designed specifically for putting on conferences and expos. Because of that, you can expect a well-run conference. If you value an organized conference put on by experienced professionals (which theoretically means shorter lines, better networking/social events, straightforward registration), etc then you might have a better experience at Interdrone.
AUVSI vs Interdrone: which is better?
It’s impossible to say which is the better event overall. You’ll have to ask yourself which event is better for you. I’ve been to both, and learned a lot. In past years, the conferences weren’t held one week after another, so it was an easy decision to attend both. They both attract the top speakers in the industry and have held networking sessions where I’ve met people I still stay in touch (and work) with to this day. Both have been organized and enjoyable.
But you realistically won’t go to both this year. Scheduling travel post-COVID is complicated, as suddenly everyone makes up for lost 2020 events. Seeing your drone family for the couple-times-a-year family reunion is a joy. But just like your real family, two weeks of back-to-back get-togethers might be a bit much — and you’ll likely need to choose just one.
Consider which sessions mesh with your interests. On the whole, entrepreneurs, small business owners and investors might be a better fit at Interdrone, while policymakers, people working with government or in enterprise operations might be more drawn to XPONENTIAL. Of course, those fields have tons of crossover, so the decision might not necessarily be any easier.
From there, consider which location meshes better with your lifestyle and budget. And if all else fails, flip a coin. Either way you’ll be attending one great conference.
Do you have any thoughts on attending AUVSI vs Interdrone? Leave your feedback on the two conferences in the comments!