2023 drone events: the biggest drone conferences, races and meetups this year

Editor’s note: These 2023 drone events have all passed! I’m keeping this page alive for posterity, but if you’re making future plans, check out our new page on 2024 drone events.

This year, the 2023 drone events promise to be exciting, with a range of not just the usual stodgy conferences, but plenty of drone-related sporting events, drone light show premieres, drone photography vacations and other industry events to be had.

While I won’t be at all of these events, here’s at least a list of the ones I’d attend if I had an unlimited travel budget. So with that, here are the top 2023 drone events I’m looking forward to:

Premier of the Disneyland Paris Marvel Drone Show: Jan. 28, 2023

Paris, France

An epic, Marvel-themed drone light show is coming to the Walt Disney Studios theme park in Paris to celebrate the park’s 30th anniversary.

500 drones will form a series of lighting sequences themed to the powers of heroic Super Heroes such as Captain America, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch and, for the first time at Disneyland Paris, Shang-Chi. It’s all set to a soundtrack recorded by a symphony orchestra of 70 musicians recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, and incorporates not just drones but projections on the Tower of Terror.

Even if you don’t make it for opening night on Jan. 28, 2023, you have some time. The show is scheduled to run at least through May 8, 2023.

Drone Racing League’s DRL SIM Live: February 4

Arlington, Texas

DRL SIM Live is the only live esports event of the 2022-23 DRL Algorand World Championship Season, and is set for Feb. 4, 2023 at Esports Stadium Arlington in Texas.

Tickets are required to attend and start at $25 each, which can be purchased through TIXR.

NestGen’23 – the Drone Autonomy Summit: February 23

Virtual

Here’s a great way to save on event travel costs and — if you move fast — event tickets too.

The 2023 NestGen summit, which touts DJI as its title sponsor and keynote, is a one-day event that delves into the latest advancements in the drone autonomy industry.

DJI’s keynote will reveal their vision for the next generation of autonomous drone operations, the future of visual data acquisition, and their role in driving the global adoption of drone docks.

Passes for the NestGen virtual summit are $23, but if you register now, they’re free.

Drone Racing League’s MIAMI 3-0-FLY: February 25

Miami, Florida

Watch the world’s best drone pilots race the fastest drones in Miami as part of the Drone Racing League’s Championship event, Miami 3-0-FLY.

The race will transpire at Miami’s loanDepot park at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb, 25, 2023, transforming the baseball stadium into a video-game inspired, neon-colored aerial course.

Tickets are required to attend and start at $25 each, which can be purchased through the MLB’s website.

Photos courtesy of Merritt Moore.

WISE Annual Conference 2023: March 21

London, England

This one should be of interest to recruiters or other drone companies looking to improve diversity in their workforce. This one-day conference is being held on Tuesday, March 21 at IET London, and is designed to teach attendees how to recruit, retain and retrain female talent in STEM companies.

Especially standout is keynote speaker Merritt Moore who is both a female quantum physicist and a world class professional ballet dancer.

Tickets start at £210.00 and can be purchased here.

NAB Show 2023: April 16-19

Las Vegas, Nevada

NAB Show is a massive, annual trade show produced by the National Association of Broadcasters — and it’s been going since 1991. It’s there to showcase products in the broadcast, media and entertainment industry, and drones have snuck in over the past decade.

One of the biggest drone representatives set to demo at the NAB Show 2023 is DJI. Expect to see the latest DJI drones, gimbals, and gear. Plus, DJI is offering up demos, talks, activities and opportunities for Q&A with DJI top dogs. DJI will be at booth #C6725.

Plus, you can register for a NAB show floor pass for free between now and March 31, using coupon code LV44288.

After that, the code can get you a discounted ticket for $50. Otherwise, it costs $169 ($109 for NAB Members and $109 for Students). Though, the full NAB Show Conference Pass costs $799.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Drone Soccer.

Drone Soccer National Championship: April 16

Utica, New York

There’s drone racing, but the next iteration in drone sports is drone soccer. Throughout the year, teams will have been playing in a variety of 2023 drone events including local exhibitions, scrimmages and matches. Then in March comes the regional championships. And 16 teams from Regional Championships will be invited to the National Championship race, set to happen at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica, New York.

Autel Robotics’ Global Partner Summit: April 26

Huizhou, Guangdong, China

The inaugural Autel Robotics’ Global Partner Summit at Le Meridien Xiaojing Bay offered new product demos: most notably the launch and first public viewing of new EVO Max Series and Ecosystem products. This included the EVO Max 4T with Zoom Camera, Wide Camera, Thermal Camera and Laser Rangefinder; and the EVO Max 4N, equipped with a new Night Vision Zoom Camera alongside the features of the EVO Max 4T.

Also on show was Autel Mapper, Autel’s newly updated software designed as a one-stop solution for 2D and 3D mapping, Autel’s Airborne ISR Solution as well as a new e-VTOL UAVnew e-VTOL UAV.

Drone Safety Day 2023: April 29

U.S., nationwide

Drone Safety Day 2023 is holiday invented by the Federal Aviation Administration, and it’s set for Saturday, April 29, 2023. It’s an opportunity for businesses, schools, and organizations to share how they use drones with the broader community, and drone enthusiasts get an excuse to share their passion. Of course, the heavily-safety-oriented FAA gets a platform to continue to hammer home its safety message.

So far, there have been more than a dozen events occurring around the nation that have been announced ahead of Drone Safety Day 2023, though more could be added. The events are hosted by all sorts of groups, including colleges and local AUVSI chapters. They range from panels on topics like drone law and policy to more casual and fun fly-ins.

Find out more about events near you (or how to host your own piece of Drone Safety Day 2023) here.

Photo courtesy of Rotorcraft Asia and Unmanned Systems Asia

Rotorcraft Asia and Unmanned Systems Asia 2023: May 3-5

Singapore

This is the premiere drone conference for the Asia region, which will be held at Singapore’s Changi Exhibition Centre. It’s held concurrently with IMDEX Asia 2023 and is set to feature thought leadership forums and a product showcase pavilion.

Learn more about Rotorcraft Asia and Unmanned Systems Asia 2023 here.

AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB

AUVSI XPONENTIAL: May 8-11

Denver, Colorado

AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2023 is a giant tech conference put on by AUVSI, which stands for the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (which is a giant lobbying group for robotics industries). Expect keynotes from major industry leaders, and breakout small group training sessions.

The event is held in a different location every year, but AUVSI 2023 is set for the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

It also hosts some smaller, co-located events such as the Law-Tech Connect Workshop.

Check out Drone Girl’s guide to the top 11 things not to miss at XPONENTIAL 2023.

Find out more about XPONENTIAL and register here.

World of Drones and Robotics Congress New Zealand: May 22-24

Auckland, New Zealand

After six years in Australia, the award-winning World of Drones and Robotics Congress (WoDaRC) is headed to a new country, happening in Auckland in May 2023. The two-day event will have a big policy focus, discussing governance and opportunity in emerging technology and — fittingly — New Zealand sovereign capability and regional leadership.

But that’s not all. It’ll cover a range of industrial applications including humanitarian engineering, disaster response and the future of climate resilience, environmental and agricultural technology — and even movies and media.

Among the most-anticipated speakers including Catherine MacGowan, Vice President APAC & Air Operations at Wisk New Zealand, who will share her insights on bringing an eVTOL air taxi to market.

It’s all happening at the Hilton Auckland. Register for World of Drones and Robotics Congress New Zealand here.

7th Annual Energy Drone & Robotics Summit: June 12-14

Houston, Texas

The Energy Drone & Robotics Summit is the largest event in the world for UAVs, Robotics & Data/AI/ML, exclusively focused on the business and technology of unmanned systems, automation and data/AI in energy & industrial operations.

This three-day event attracts thousands of worldwide, industrial drone leaders across the rapidly-growing energy sector. it covers everything from operating drones, satellites, and robotics successfully, from the stars to the sea floor.

Although it’s not specific to drones, drones are obviously a huge component. And there is one workshop that is specific to drones. Dawn Zoldi, whose Law-Tech Connect workshop is being held in tandem with AUVSI, is running a similar tandem event, this one tied to energy. Officially titled Law-Tech Connect: Energy Edition, it’s a half-day, co-located event held on Monday, June 12. It’ll focus on the tech and policies that specifically impact the energy sector with panels on topics including BVLOS, methane compliance, ship to shore and ship to ship ops, and critical security infrastructure. What’s more, it is anticipated that the workshop will qualify as a Texas Bar-accredited Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program (4 credits).

It’s being held at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott in Houston, Texas.

Japan Drone 2023: June 26-28

Chiba, Japan

An estimated 18,000 people are set to attend the Japan Drone 2023 event, out on by the Japan UAS Industrial Development Association. It’s being held concurrently with the 2nd International Advanced Air Mobility Expo 2023.

It’s held at Makuhari Messe in Chiba City, which is a roughly 30 minute ride from Tokyo Station.

Droning On: California Edition: July 21-23

Fullerton, California

This three-day event is hosted by the FAA to highlight the societal, economic, and educational benefits of drones for emergency responders, local government, educators and students.

Day one gets down to business with panels, lectures, and demonstrations centered around public service. Day two is Drone Educator Day, focused on teachers. And day three is play, with hands-on activities including simulators and drones on hand for you to fly.

Best of all, this event is free (though you need to register to reserve a spot). Register and learn more here.

2023 FAA Drone Symposium and Advanced Air Mobility Summit: August 1-3

Baltimore, Maryland

The FAA and AUVSI are set to co-host the 8th Annual FAA Drone Symposium and the first-ever Advanced Air Mobility Summit this summer at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland. It’s targeted mostly at representatives from the FAA, other government agencies, international aviation experts, industry leaders and academia.

New this year is a breakout, AAM Summit, which will air taxis and electric vertical take-off, and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Registration fees start as low at $449 if you register early and qualify for a discount (such as government, military and student discounts) and run as high as $1,358. Register for the FAA Drone Symposium here.

Photo courtesy of Commercial UAV Expo.

Commercial UAV Expo: September 5-7

Las Vegas, Nevada

The Commercial UAV Expo is a major, annual U.S. drone conference that spans topics including construction, delivery, energy, forestry, infrastructure, mining, security and public safety.

This year’s event runs from Sept. 5-7 at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas. Get updates abut the event at the official Commercial UAV Expo website.

B&H’s Bild Expo 2023: September 6-7

New York City, New York

B&H will be celebrating its 50th anniversary at the Bild Expo in the Javits Center, in Manhattan, just two avenues over from the B&H Photo SuperStore.

The two-day event will include presentations, hands-on learning opportunities, a massive gear expo, photo walks around New York City, and portfolio reviews.

Find out more about the B&H Bild Expo and register here.

Skydio Ascend Keynote: September 20

San Francisco, California and online

Ascend is in-person and virtual event hosted by Skydio, set for Wednesday, Sept. 20. The keynote, which will be broadcast online for free to those who register, will run from 9 -10:30 a.m. PT.

The centerpiece of the event will be a keynote led by Skydio CEO Adam Bry, who will offer the lates updates around Skydio’s newfound emphasis on commercial drones, particularly in an era of AI-enabled autonomous flight.  Other keynote speakers will include New York Police Department Chief John Chell, Kansas Department of Transportation Director of Aviation Bob Brock, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company Vice President Jason Regan.

You can register to participate in Skydio’s Ascend event for free (either in-person or online) here.

Drone Launch Live: September 22-23

Lakeland, Florida

Drone Launch Academy is set to host its first ever live event, called “Drone Launch Live”. This’ll be the first of what the Drone Launch Academy team expects to be an annual thing — and it’s unlike any conference or trade show you’ve ever been to — and that should bring a sigh of relief.

There are no exhibitors. There is no show floor. Instead, it’s just group of people who love drones socializing, learning, teaching and discussing how to keep pushing each other forward. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any structure or organization. Drone Launch instructors and members will lead organized discussions, workshops, and other fun events.

The event will be put on by Drone Launch Academy, which initially rose to prominence as a key player in the drone community for its Part 107 online test prep course. The organization has since grown to be a leading educator in even more aspects of the drone industry, such as photography, mapping and modeling. In fact, the team earlier this year just launched an all-new drone mapping class dubbed “Drone Mapping And Modeling Fundamentals.”

Related read: This drone mapping class can level up your drone business — and it costs less than $249

Drone Launch Live will be located at Lakeland, Florida, which is Drone Launch Academy’s headquarters. It’s also just 40 minutes from Tampa and 40 minutes from Disney World, which might be an ideal opportunity to merge a business trip with a Disney vacation.

Mauritius Drone Photo Trip: October 1-7

Mauritius

This Mauritius drone trip is the ultimate vacation for drone pilots.

Johan Vandenhecke, who does all things drone photography including taking aerial photos for hire and running an online drone photography class called Drone Adventurer Masterclass+ also offers drone photography trips throughout the year. They’re wildly popular; the May 2023 trip to Azores, which is Azores, an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic, sold out quickly.

But there are spaces left to fly your drone on the beautiful island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Vandenhecke’s 6-day trip takes you to the best spots to fly, while also offering up live workshops in the field and editing workshops in a private villa.

And it’s certainly a relaxing vacation that’s not just drones 24/7. You’ll dine on food cooked by a private chef, and other activities included are swimming with dolphins, swimming, quad biking and hiking.

The first trip (just two spots left) runs September 25 through October 1. The second trip (five spots left) runs October 2 through October 8. To book the Mauritius drone trip, email Vandenhecke through the contact form on his website, upon which you’ll need to fill out a secondary form and submit your trip deposit (please let him know I sent you, by the way!).

Learn more about the Mauritius drone trip here.

2023 FAI World Drone Racing Championship: October 6-9

Namwon, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea

FAI, short for Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (or the World Air Sports Federation, for English-speaking folk) is the world governing body for air sports and for certifying world aviation and space records. While drones are relatively new, the FAI is not, having been founded in 1905 as a non-governmental and non-profit, as recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Its 2023 FAI World Drone Racing Championship drone race will be held at the Chunhyangol Stadium in Namwon, Jeollabuk-do, which is about two hours south of Seoul, South Korea. Racers will compete for $100,000 in prize money.

This is the third race of its kind; the two first editions of the FAI Drone Racing World Championship happened in Shenzhen, China (2018) and Ningbo, China (2019), before a three-year gap caused by the pandemic.

And there’s a bonus event. If you’re into drone soccer, then don’t skip out, as the 2023 Korea Drone Soccer International Open Cup will be held concurrently.

Interaerial Solutions: October 11-13

Berlin, Germany

Interaerial Solution is an expo, forum and live flying zone held as part of InterGeo, which is a massive trade fair for geodesy, geoinformation and land management. Folks on the geospatial side of things won’t want to miss this excuse to head to the German capital, Berlin, for both Interaerial Solutions and the broader InterGeo conference.

Outdoor demos will be held at the exhibition grounds under the Radio Tower, while the brand-new Hub27 will serve as the main conference center.

And you can even get a free ticket to this event simply by filling out a survey for the 2023 edition of the annual Drone Industry Barometer.

Dronitaly: October 11-13

Bologna, Italy

This is a huge drone event specific for industrial applications, especially considering Dronitaly will take place simultaneously with five other events managed by Bologna’s Department of Fire, Water and Energy.

And you can even get a free ticket to this event simply by filling out a survey for the 2023 edition of the annual Drone Industry Barometer.

PX4 Autopilot Developer Summit: October 21-22

New Orleans, Louisiana

The PX4 Autopilot Developer Summit is an annual event that brings together the PX4 community, including software and hardware developers, researchers, and enthusiasts across the entire Dronecode ecosystem, including PX4 Autopilot, MAVLINK, MAVSKD, QGroundControl, and Pixhawk. Last year’s show in Austin gathered more than 200 open-source developers and industry leaders who design and produce the world’s most innovative drone tech, making this hands-down the best place to find out about the latest developments in aerial robotics before they hit shelves.

This year’s summit is being held adjacent to ROSCon 2023 (more specifically, at the New Orleans Hyatt Regency), so you can attend both in one trip.

PLUS, I have an exclusive PX4 Developer Summit promo code that can get you an $100 discount off your registration. Use coupon code PX423MED100 when registering at this link.

Register for the PX4 Autopilot Developer Summit here (and don’t forget to use promo code PX423MED100).

Emerging Aviation Technologies Thought Leaders’ Summit and Awards: October 24-25

Washington, D.C.

The Emerging Aviation Technologies Thought Leaders’ Summit, hosted by Women and Drones and the Commercial Drone Alliance, is set for October 24 in Washington, D.C.

Then the next day is the fun part: the Women in Emerging Aviation Technologies Awards. The awards ceremony has a history of being held in bigger and better venues every year. What stated as a ceremony as part of the now-defunct Interdrone conference then moved to the massive CES tech conference in Vegas.

And the 7th Annual Global Awards will take place at a new venue, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, on October 25.

I got the privilege of attending last year (and was honored to be named with my own award in the inaugural Hall of Fame). Read about what the 2023 Emerging Aviation Technologies Thought Leaders’ Summit was all about here.

World’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Conference: November 12-14

Jerusalem, Israel

The World’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Conference 2023 is a future-focused drone conference, discussing how to address current, major challenges to flying manned and unmanned aircraft in the same airspace as well as managing air traffic with multiple drone operations that fly beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) in the presence of man-operated air vehicles.

The event is being held in partnership with AUVSI Israel (Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International Israel).

Though it’s in Israel, the conference will be held in English. It’s all happening at the ICC Jerusalem – International Convention Center. Until October 1, 2023, you can register for an early-bird discount of $600, otherwise it’s $670 (or a hefty $750 if you register onsite or late).

And, if you register by June 30, 2023, you also get a free, 1-year membership for AUVSI Israel.

What 2023 drone events are on your calendar? Leave a comment below!

Curious for a look back at what was happening this time last year? Check out my guide to the biggest 2022 drone events.

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