2021 Interdrone cancelled after COVID cancelled 2020, too

We’re looking at two years of no Interdrone. 2021 Interdrone has been cancelled, due in large part to COVID.

Emerald Expositions, the team that puts on the once-annual Interdrone conference, announced that it was calling off this year’s 2021 Interdrone event, which was set for August 10-12, 2021, in Dallas, Texas.

“The past year has ushered in significant change, especially in re-imaging the way we gather and connect with our community,” Emerald said in a statement. “To that end, the InterDrone team has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 in-person edition of our conference.”

Interdrone 2020, originally set for August in Texas was also cancelled for obvious, COVID reasons. That would have marked the first year that Interdrone was held outside of its usual location in Las Vegas. Speakers at Interdrone 2021 were set to include Auterion’s Romeo Durscher, Dawn Zoldi of P3 Tech Consulting, and Kansas State University Executive Director of Aviation Strategy Lindsey Dreiling, who also sits on the FAA’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board.

Why was Interdrone 2021 cancelled?

There are a few reasons why organizers said the plug was pulled on the 2021 Interdrone conference:

Ongoing restrictions on corporate travel: Many companies have drastically cut business travel — and are reaping the benefits. For example, Amazon said it saved $1 billion in travel expenses due to the pandemic.

The lack of corporate travel crushed airlines and hotels — and it’s crushing adjacent industries like conferences too. The International Air Transport Association said it expects business travel to bounce back very slowly. While individual households may have unused 2020 vacation budgets to go big on personal travel, most companies reduced their travel budget during the pandemic after learning how online conferencing could replace in-person meetings. It’s unlikely business travel budgets will quickly bounce back.

Limitations on international travel: The drone industry has strong international ties. In normal times, that’s a good thing, but not during COVID, as many borders are still shut down.

Though there are a few exceptions, several proclamations limit entry into the U.S. of noncitizens who had been in a number of major countries over the prior 14 days, including China, the United Kingdom, the European Schengen area, India and Brazil. That encompasses a huge number of representatives from major drone companies. Given that 14-day restriction, it seems unlikely that people working for companies based in those countries would come to the U.S. for a drone conference.

Overall budget constraints: It’s tough to say whether the past year of lockdowns helped or hurt the drone industry. 15% of drone companies said they saw an increase for demand in drones since coronavirus, but 43% of companies experienced a drop in demand, according to the Drone Industry Barometer 2020 which polled drone industry members in May 2020, during the early-ish days of the pandemic. Cinematographers lost work with Hollywood at a standstill.

But other companies found even more work given the inherently socially-distance nature of drones. For example, coronavirus provided an obvious landmark opportunity for drone delivery, as drones could deliver everything from PPE for medical providers, to at-home coronavirus test kits to basic pantry items to people’s homes. And actually drone hardware sales got a boost from COVID-19.

Yet even among companies that experienced growth, it’s likely that budgets were reallocated. Companies didn’t need conference budgets for 2020, so they likely didn’t bring them back in 2021.

Other factors at stake in cutting the 2021 Interdrone conference

It’s also likely that the timing was unfortunate, given how close Interdrone was to another drone conference, AUVSI XPONENTIAL. AUVSI XPONENTIAL and Interdrone are two of the biggest annual drone conferences in the world, and while they normally happen far apart from each other in the year, both conferences were rescheduled from their usual times given COVID. In 2021, it turned out that they were rescheduled to run back-to-back from each other, both spanning the weeks of mid-August. Interdrone would run Aug. 10-12 in Dallas, and AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2021 would (and still is set to) run Aug. 16-19 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

It seemed unlikely that people would go to both conferences given the cost not just of conference attendance but also travel there, and the opportunity cost of time off of actual work. In fact, we got numerous reader questions asking me to compare AUVSI vs Interdrone in 2021 and decide for them which drone conference is better. (Luckily I don’t have to give an answer anymore.)

What happens next?

Luckily, most hotel cancellation policies have gotten extremely flexible since COVID, and airline cancellation policies are pretty good these days too. At Hyatt, which is where Interdrone 2021 was originally set for, World of Hyatt members can typically cancel up to 24 hours before the hotel or resort check-in time at no cost. Though, that doesn’t apply for reservations booked at corporate negotiated or group contract rates. If you booked through Interdrone, you’ll have to work with them to get a refund.

As for the 2022 Interdrone conference? While Interdrone also hosts an excellent podcast and sends out a great newsletter, it seems unlikely that Interdrone will cancel its 2022 conference completely. After all, there is big money to be made at drone conferences.

That said, as far as what to expect next year from a potential Interdrone 2022, you might see a completely different sort of conference that likely would be geared toward more niche audiences.

“As we examined and listened to our community’s concerns regarding the changing nature of the drone market we are understanding more and more that large generalized drone conferences no longer fully meet the requirements of a changing landscape,” Emerald said in a statement. “Thus we have made the decision to take a step back and re-envision how we best serve our valued customers. ”

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