After a very successful trade show and conference in New Orleans last year, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is bringing this year's event, AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2017 to the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, TX. The event, which runs from May 8 – May 11, will feature more than 200 presentations and panel discussions focused on all aspects of the unmanned vehicle and robotics market. Over 650 exhibitors representing more than 20 different industries will be showcasing their latest technology to an estimated 7,000 attendees from all over the world.

Endeavor Robotics booth at XPONENTIAL 2016. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)
Even NASA had a presence on the show floor at XPONENTIAL 2016. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

So, what can attendees expect to find at XPONENTIAL 2017?

The event kicks off on Monday afternoon, May 8, with educational programming and workshops from 1:30 to 5:00 pm, followed by a welcome reception, first timers reception, and exhibitor reception. These receptions are a great venue for first-time attendees and veterans alike to mingle and network in an informal relaxed atmosphere.

Tuesday, May 9, begins with keynote addresses by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Weather Channel Meteorologist Jim Cantore, which should provide much food for thought before attendees head off to the many educational sessions being offered or the exhibit hall.

Exhibit Hall

If past shows are any indication, there will be no shortage of things to see and do in the exhibit hall. More than 650 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, and much, much more.

In addition to the normal array of exhibitors, this year's event offers a number of features designed to help attendees navigate the show floor more efficiently. Take the Technology Zones for example. According to show organizers, “Technology zones provide a hub for attendees to see the latest innovation for one specific market segment.” There will be four Technology Zones to explore: Air Pavilion, Business Services Zone, Software Pavilion, and a Startup Pavilion.

The Kratos booth at XPONENTIAL 2016. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

The Air Pavilion will focus on UAS products and services, particularly those of interest to companies and individuals with 333 Exemptions and Part 107 operator status. The Business Services Zone will give attendees an opportunity to meet with companies that specialize in providing various support services such as insurance, legal services and training. The Software Pavilion, which is a new addition to this year's show, will feature the types of software products that can expand an unmanned vehicle's horizons by adding or increasing things like autonomy and image stitching. And the Startup Pavilion, as its name implies, will feature young, promising companies looking to mainstream their newest innovations and technologies.

There will be four international pavilions featuring companies from China, France, Spain and the UK, as well as four State Pavilions where attendees can learn what is being done to help grow the unmanned vehicles and robotics industry in places like Colorado, Nevada, North Dakota and Utah.

Two of the more popular attractions on the show floor will be Robots in Action, a special area where exhibitors can demonstrate their small unmanned air and ground vehicles in action, and the AUVSI Foundation's RoboNation, which pits teams of students against each other in competition to see whose autonomous robotics technology is the best.

Reunion Tower in Dallas, Texas. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

And finally, don't miss the Solutions Theater where you'll be able to see the best new products from exhibitors as chosen by AUVSI, and the Poster Presentations where you can meet and chat with people doing the latest cuttingedge research in the field of unmanned vehicles and robotics.

Educational Program

Those seeking the latest up-to-date information about unmanned vehicles and robotics technology can attend a variety of stimulating courses and seminars at XPONENTIAL 2017. The courses have been broken down into three program tracks: Policy, Technology, and Business Solutions. 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:

  • Airspace 101: What You Need to Know Now
  • Policy Implications for Automated Vehicles
  • International Trade Issues Affecting Unmanned Systems
  • Unmanned Maritime Systems: Advances in Regulation and Related Technology
  • Federal, State, and Local: How Can We All Get Along?

Technology Track

The Technology Track, as its name implies, will keep you up to speed on the latest technological developments in areas like artificial intelligence, autonomous operation, software, and propulsion systems. Some of the panel sessions being offered are:

  • Reducing SWaP-C in UAVs With a Consolidated PNT Modular Sensor
  • Counter-UAV System Based on RF Detection and Video Analytics
  • Advanced Platform for UUV Technology Development, Integration and Testing
  • Software Developments Driving the Next Generation of Drone and Robot Technology
  • Technical Challenges Impacting the Development and Deployment of Fully Automated Vehicles

Business Solutions

Oshkosh shows off one of their impressive military vehicles at XPONENTIAL 2016. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)
Stampede showed off their full range of drones at XPONENTIAL 2016. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

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:

  • Unmanned Maritime Operations for Oil & Gas: Understanding the Challenges and Opportunities
  • Insights on Inspection: Improving Efficiency, Increasing Safety and Saving Money on the Worksite
  • Customer Focus Panel: The Benefits, Challenges and Opportunities for Drone Imaging
  • Drones in the Wireless Industry: Use Cases and Perspectives on an Emerging Market
  • The Devil's in the Data - Managing, Protecting and Making the Most of Your Information

After Hours

One of the many innovative drones on exhibit at XPONENTIAL 2016. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

If you're not too tired after walking the show floor for hours or participating in the educational sessions, there is certainly no lack of interesting things to do in Dallas. For example, there's the infamous Texas School Book Depository – now known as the Dallas County Administration Building – from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots that killed President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The sixth floor of the building, where Oswald had his sniper's nest, has been converted into a fascinating museum devoted to that fateful day. You can also wander around Dealey Plaza and visit the legendary grassy knoll from which some people still believe a second conspirator fired the fatal shot.

Or if breathtaking views are more to your liking, take a trip to the top of Reunion Tower where you can enjoy stunning 360-degree views of the city from 500 feet above it. Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has a revolving restaurant up there. Or you can dine a little more down to earth at any of the wide array of restaurants, bars and bistros for which downtown Dallas is famous.

Given all that XPONENTIAL 2017 and the city of Dallas have to offer, this year's event should be one to remember.