XPONENTIAL 2018 – An AUVSI Experience

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is bringing this year's XPONENTIAL 2018 to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, CO. The event, which runs from April 30 – May 3, will feature more than 200 presentations and panel discussions focused on all aspects of the unmanned vehicle and robotics market. Over 725 exhibitors representing more than 20 different industries will be showcasing their latest technology to an estimated 7,000 attendees from all over the world.

So, what can you expect to find at XPONENTIAL 2018?

AeroVironment's booth was hard to miss at XPONENTIAL 2017 in Dallas. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

The event kicks off on Monday afternoon, April 30, with educational programs and workshops from 1:30 to 5:15 pm, followed by a welcome reception and, if you're an exhibitor, an exhibitor's reception. These social gatherings are a great opportunity for first-time attendees and veterans alike to mingle and network in an informal relaxed atmosphere. And on Wednesday evening, from 6:30 - 9:30 pm, AUVSI will be taking over the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Denver to host The MIX, a social gathering designed to let attendees mingle, relax, and enjoy live music, food, interactive games, and a beer garden.

Exhibit Hall

The exhibit hall – dubbed XPO Hall, of course – opens for business on Tuesday morning at 10:30, and if past shows are any indication, there will be no shortage of things to see and do. More than 725 exhibitors from around the world will occupy over 370,000 square feet of exhibit space to showcase their latest technology and products covering all aspects of unmanned vehicle and robotics design, manufacturing, and use including air, ground, surface, subsurface, space systems, weapons systems, security systems, engineering and R&D, propulsion systems, sensors, electronics, fabrication, imaging and communications systems.

Bluefin Robotics showed off their underwater vehicle technology at XPONENTIAL 2017. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

In addition to the normal array of exhibitors, this year's event offers a number of features designed to help attendees get the most out of their XPONENTIAL experience. The Starting Point Theater will give entrepreneurs a chance to listen to experts give practical advice on how to start up new businesses or integrate new technology into existing operations. The Solutions Theater will showcase XPONENTIAL exhibitors offering up-close looks at some of their latest advancements and technology solutions. And the always popular Poster Presentation will highlight the cutting-edge research being done by some of the brightest minds in the industry.

An attendee checks out some of the drones on display at XPONENTIAL 2017. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

Show organizers are touting several “new features” this year that should attract a lot of attention. XBuild will gather some of the best and brightest engineering talent together and turn them loose to come up with new and innovative unmanned systems solutions in a unique buildathon/hackathon. And if competition is your thing, don't miss XPONENTIAL's first-ever drone racing event featuring professional drone operators competing for prizes. There will also be a Talent Acquisition area where attendees can meet with prospective employers and explore career opportunities; a Startup Showdown where five hopeful entrepreneurs will pitch the merits of their companies and products; and the AUVSI XCELLENSE Awards where the industry's leading contributors in 18 categories will be formally recognized.

Danielson Aircraft Systems displayed some of their UAV engine technology at XPONENTIAL 2017. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

This year there will be seven international pavilions featuring companies from Alberta, China, Denmark, France, Korea, Quebec, and Spain. On the home front, six State Pavilions will showcase the latest technology being developed in: Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, New York, North Dakota and Virginia.

Former FAA Chief, Michael Huerta (center), visited XPONENTIAL 2017 in Dallas. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)
Pratt & Whitney showed off impressive cutaway models of its engines at XPONENTIAL 2017. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)
Harris had an interactive exhibit demonstrating the manual dexterity of its robots. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)
The Wave Glider autonomous unmanned surface vehicle from Liquid Robotics. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

Educational Program

Those seeking the latest cutting-edge information about unmanned vehicles and robotics technology can attend a variety of stimulating courses and seminars at XPONENTIAL 2018. Like last year, the courses have been broken down into four program tracks: Policy, Technology, Business Solutions and Trending Topics. Although parts of the program were still being finalized as we went to press, here are some of the educational programs being offered:

Policy Track

The Policy Track is designed to give attendees access to the latest information on policies and regulations impacting the unmanned vehicle and robotics industries straight from the people formulating them. Some of the panel sessions being offered are:

  • Addressing State and Local Issues Impacting UAS Regulation

  • Implementation of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability

  • Unlocking the National Infrastructure for Air and Ground Cargo Transport

  • Cooperatively Managed Airspace: Structuring E Above A for Balloons, Fixed Wing Aircraft, Border Patrol Supersonic Jets, and Others

  • Integrating UAS Technologies Within State and Local Government Agency Operators

Technology Track

Among the international contingent at XPONENTIAL 2017 was Japanese specialty commercial drone manufacturer, Prodrone. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)
The Martin UAV booth was busy during XPONENTIAL 2017. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

The Technology Track, as its name implies, will keep you up to speed on the latest technological developments affecting areas like robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, software, and payload advancements. Some of the panel sessions being offered are:

  • Measuring Vehicle Intelligence in Human Transport: What is Your Car's IQ?

  • Cutting the Tether: Performing ROV Style, Complex Manipulation With-out a Tether

  • Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) Implementation and Validation of a SAE Level 2 Autonomous Vehicle

  • Swarm Development for Maritime Search and Rescue Using Genetic Algorithms

  • The Dark Arts of Jamming or Spoofing GPS to Disrupt Drone Flights

Business Solutions

Unmanned vehicles and robotics technology is opening up all kinds of new business opportunities, and this track is designed to help you learn how to take advantage of them. Some of the panel sessions being offered are:

  • 60 Tips Your UAS Service Business Needs to Succeed

  • Selling UAS Outside the U.S. Without Breaking the Law

  • Market Sizing: Turning Guesses into Data

  • Transitioning from Manned to Unmanned Aircraft...When is the Right Time?

  • Market Insights: Where We've Been, Where We Are and Where We're Headed

Trending Topics

This track, which is new this year, is designed to give participants insight into the industry's biggest growth markets and hottest technology trends from BVLOS drone operations to new developments in artificial intelligence. Some of the panel sessions being offered are:

  • Achieving Commercial Beyond Line of Sight Operations

  • Countering the Threat: Combatting Nefarious Drone Activity Domestically and Abroad

  • Whose Drone is That? Achieving a Balanced and Fair UAS Remote Identification Policy

  • Lessons Learned During the Development and Testing of the Vahana Urban Air Mobility Technology Demonstrator

The Naval Research Laboratory distributed information on their programs at XPONENTIAL 2017. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

After Hours

There is certainly no shortage of things to see and do in Denver, assuming you're not too tired after walking the show floor for hours or participating in the educational sessions. Check out downtown Denver; marvel at the Colorado State Capital building where you can stand exactly 5,280 feet (1-mile) above sea level; visit the U.S. Mint where you can literally watch them make money; or check out the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave high atop Lookout Mountain. If you can't get your fill of technology at XPONENTIAL (hard to imagine), tour the Denver Museum of Nature & Science; or get back to nature at the Denver Zoo or Botanic Gardens. However you choose to spend your free time, it's sure to be a fitting compliment to all there is to see and learn at this year's XPONENTIAL 2018.