AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2015 a huge success, says James Gadbury, COO

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - 13:41

Jamie Webb, CEO and I went to AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in Atlanta at the beginning of May and it’s been so busy since I’ve yet to find time to write up a report on our trip!
It’s safe to say this was a whole new league in comparison with their European conference that we attended in Brussels in March this year. The sheer size and scale of the exhibition hall itself, the conference centre, the number of people both visiting and exhibiting, and some of the incredibly impressive stands comprising helicopters, unmanned jet boats and of course unmanned aerial vehicles. The scale of it was matched by the impressive list of attendees and speakers, from Colin Gunn at 3DR, Dave Vos from Project Wing at Google and Professor Hugh Herr to name a few; whilst the exhibitor list was equally exciting, with the vast majority of established manufacturers having a presence on the floor.
UAV Protect had our stand in the ‘start up pavilion’ in booth 1500E. We had a number of interesting and thought-provoking conversations with people across the industry at our stand. Whilst the industry is still in an embryonic stage, it is clear that regulation isn’t far from being in place to unlock the industry’s full potential, at which point we believe the market will explode. As it is, the number of Section 333 exemptions in the USA has risen steeply in the last 5 months, whilst in the UK the CAA can barely keep up with the demand for PFAWs. Once the small UAS rule comes in to play in the US, we expect the market to really proliferate, whilst in Europe once EASA have put forward their regulatory framework, this should also spark an increase in commercial operators. In addition, CASA in Australia are preparing to relax restrictions on the use of smaller drones by commercial operators in 2016.

We’re excited to see how the market develops over the next 5 years, having seen some amazing technology up close and spoken to some incredibly innovative people, there is no questioning the number of applications UAVs can be used for as ‘tools’ to assist us and dramatically increase the efficiency with which we as the human race are able to carry out tasks.
In amongst all this innovation, we were slightly dubious about how interested people would be in talking about insurance! However, people were very interested to talk to us and understand their exposures and the coverage available. On the Wednesday we held a panel titled ‘UAS Insurance: The Next Major Step in the Growth of Commercial UAS Usage’ in the ‘Innovation Hub’, where I was joined by Jay Wigmore, Ian Lewis and Robert James from TokioMarine Kiln, and Ray Mariani from Murray,Morin & Herman, P.A.
Unsurprisingly, the panel discussed the importance of insurance to the UAV industry! Between us we discussed the exposures commercial operators and manufacturers face, the importance of safeguarding your intellectual property but also how manufacturers may have lawsuits to defend as manufacturers start to stake claims over what is their own intellectual property and finally we looked at existing claims scenarios, state and federal law in the USA and how this impacts on the industry and potential exposure for operators, and how risk management can help to negate such exposures. The main message we tried to get across was that insurance is vital to protect the balance sheets of companies and allow them to focus on innovation rather than having to spend time and vast sums of money defending claims. Third party liability insurance for commercial operators, and products liability insurance and intellectual property for manufacturers are all vital risk management tools that will enable the industry to continue to grow.

The panel was well received and we had a number of conversations afterwards with interested parties. We hope those listening have taken our message on board and will think seriously about the exposures their company face and the important role insurance can play in protecting them.
Overall the conference was a huge success and we can’t wait for next year’s conference in New Orleans.