Protesters briefly disrupted the opening of a Los Angeles consumer and commercial drone expo Saturday with chants blaming a speaker for predator drone deaths in Pakistan.
The demonstration cut into a keynote speech by Austin Blue, president of Spectrum Aeronautical. Blue’s family owns General Atomics, a producer of the unmanned predator aircraft.
“Austin Blue, shame on you, how many deaths were caused by you?” the group chanted before being escorted out of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena by security. A second group outside the venue blamed drones for 3,000 deaths in Pakistan and warned that the LAPD obtained two recently.
“This is just a way to commercialize it,” said Aloni Bonilla of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition.
The protests and disruption did little to wane enthusiasm for the Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle Systems Association’s inaugural Drone Expo at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. The expo catered to hobbyists, vendors, professional drone pilots and businesses interested in or already using drones with new product unveils and panels about the future of the industry.
Blue said the protesters– who were led away by security – had a right to speak out, just as people have a right to pilot drones. That kind of perception is what the drone industry has to overcome as it becomes more mainstream, but Blue said he is already seeing a shift.
“The applications that are going to increasing come to the forefront are the peaceful, economically helpful ones,” he said. Drones can help farmers plant crops efficiently, film studios capture beautiful aerial footage and activists monitor endangered wildlife, he said.
As those positive applications become more commonplace, the negative perception will change, he said.
Advocates once tried to steer the industry of remote controlled unmanned vehicles away from the word “drone”, but now the they embrace it. A drone is any unmanned robotic device on land, air or sea, but many associate the term with both remote-control flying toys and military spy planes.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com