There is perhaps no greater barometer of the growth of the UAV industry than the number of trade shows popping up. These include AUVSI’s Xponential (Dallas), the Commercial UAV Expo (October in Las Vegas), and Drone World Expo (October in San Jose). And then there is the biggest – InterDrone which takes place this September in Las Vegas. In 2016’s InterDrone had more than 3500 attendees from 54 different countries and 155 exhibitors. This year it will be larger. To learn about the show, it’s success, and the industry it covers we spoke with Ted Bahr, CEO of BZ Media.
Bahr is a tech media veteran having worked at Ziff-Davis and Miller Freeman prior to founding BZ Media in 1999. His experience may be one of the factors that account for InterDrone’s leadership position in the UAV trade show space. First, he emphasized that, “We are both a conference and a trade show. We are conference driven. For InterDrone, conference content is key. According to Bahr, “InterDrone is not just booths on the floor. We will have over 135 classes, panels, and keynotes for attendees to choose from. These are carefully developed and chosen.” Bahr explained that his team aggressively solicits the opinion of the attendees with quick surveys of speakers and classes. All panels and classes get a score. They know how many people are present at the beginning of a session and how many stay to the end. Past data informs future conference agendas. “We have two years worth of deep data on the quality of speakers who have appeared at our show. They are fully vetted. The speakers at this year’s show are individuals who have scored least 9 out of 10 on usefulness and quality of their presentation. Our quality is second to none.”
This content focus is married to a comprehensive and disciplined effort to establish a broad network of media and association partners. Bahr said that figure is now at over 300. “Our media and association partners set us apart. We have incredible market reach throughout the entire drone ecosystem.” On being the largest dedicated commercial UAV show in the market, Bahr said that, “Companies don’t want to exhibit at every show. They are busy creating, building and selling product. By bringing the entire market together in one big show, we are a very efficient place to exhibit.”
Bahr estimates that the current show enrollment is 30% ahead of last year. That rapid growth in only the show’s third year was a key factor in driving the recent sale of the expo to Emerald Expositions. “Emerald Expositions bring resources we don’t have. We are at that phase now where the expo floor portion is getting big enough that we will soon need to move into a larger space. Emerald can provide better care for and nurture the show going forward.” Though the show has been sold to Emerald, BZ Media is managing the event for 2017, and Bahr will be helping with the show’s direction and continued planning into 2018.
With the show’s rapid growth comes rapid change in its complexion. Bahr “can’t believe how fast the industry is evolving and maturing.” The first year there they had several exhibitors with “hobby” in their name and a number of prosumer drone companies. Now two years later DJI has crushed competitors in the prosumer space and InterDrone has evolved with the market, covering the increasingly sophisticated commercial applications across a variety of industries such as agriculture, mining, and construction. Enterprise exhibitors in 2017 include AeroVironment, DroneDeploy, PrecisionHawk, Intel, Riegl, Autodesk and more.
This development is consistent with Bahr’s experience with other technology trends over the past 30+ years. “The industry starts out moving into vertical markets but what typically happens is that those vertical markets are being served best by technology experts.”
Bahr expects a consolidation of the overall market. This current period of rapid market growth markets attract a lot of suppliers. The large number of vendors and drone related products can create some confusion which will evaporate over time. But one thing that will continue to drive the market according to Bahr is the, “18 yr old whiz kid syndrome.” There are young adults all around the country now working on flying robots. There’s an energy bubble of 14 – 21 yr old whiz kids who are a wellspring of ideas and these kids will continue to drive rapid development.” And that will be fun to watch.
InterDrone takes place at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas September 6-8. You can find more information here.