01 Sep 2018

Inspirational Innovation at the FAI International Drones Conference 

Innovation was the theme of the FAI International Drones Conference on Saturday afternoon – and there was no shortage of it on display.

From drone wind-turbines that promise a never-ending supply of clean energy, to drone ‘guard dogs’ patrolling the perimeter of mansions in Beverly Hills, conference speakers showed there is no limit to how drones are set to affect our lives.

Max Hjarlmarsson from Volocopter started the session telling the audience that the dream of “drone taxis” was truly on the way. “Cities around the world are looking for a solution to traffic congestion – and they are looking to the skies,” he said. 

The Volocopter team recently flew an autonomous air taxi demonstration flight in Dubai. “Drone taxis are much closer than you think,” Hjarlmarsson said.

Beatrice Scarioni from Tech4Impact and Stephanie Cettou from SenseFly inspired with case studies of real-world projects where drones are making a difference in “grand societal challenges”. 

Drones were being put to good use mapping glacial retreat and landslips near the Aletsch Glacier, nature conservation in Namibia and mapping the suburbs of Lima, Cettou explained.

Simon Johnson from the Drone Industry Association Switzerland led a mini-session within the conference looking at start-ups and new ideas. Exploring everything from security systems to mapping, to a new type of drone wind tunnel – a “wind wall” from Swiss company WindShape – Johnson presented a drone-world of never-ending possibilities. 

As part of that mini-session Nicola Mona caught the imagination with his presentation of SkyPull, a Swiss wind turbine company that is working on harnessing wind power three or four times higher than the tallest wind turbine. “The higher you go the more consistent the wind. SkyPull is an autonomous drone that can fly at 600-800m and capture very powerful winds.”

Lighter, more efficient and with a smaller environmental footprint that wind turbines, the promise was a future of clean and green energy powered by wind drones – across the world.

The session closed after an inspirational two hours with a presentation from Nicolas Bideau from Presence Suisse, an official Swiss government organisation that aims to promote Switzerland abroad. “I discovered Switzerland’s drone ecosystem at this conference here last year, and we have embraced that,” Bideau said. “We are re-branding Switzerland as the home of drones, not the home of the cuckoo clock.” 

FAI Secretary General Susanne Schoedel closed the conference by thanking speakers, those who had attended, and the conference partners: EPFL, Lausanne Tourisme, Canton de Vaud and the Swiss Rotor Sports Association. She said: “We have had one and a half days of intense, exciting and innovative discussion. I look forward to seeing you all here again next year."

Photo credit: FAI/Marcus King

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