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AUVSI Denver 2023 – Celebrating 50 Years

It has been many years since I have been to this show. It was much bigger in 14,15, and 16, with more legacy companies sponsoring/attending. Gary Mortimer’s assertion that peak drone was in or around 2016 applies here. There have been cutbacks; as someone else pointed out, there is no carpet in the aisles. The VIP area resembled a scaled-up version of a maze, only missing the cheese plate.

Overall, this year’s offering lacks a certain $82 billion je ne sais quoi. Is this a result of the end of the cost-plus contacting, or just diminishing returns on poor leadership?

The old guard is gone; only a few familiar faces are in attendance and working the event. The same can be said for the FAA—the trend these days, both in the public and private sector.

Someone told me one person at the FAA said they wished someone had warned them about the Chinese back in 2015. Funny, I was warning them from the early 2000s to current including needing asking if one needed CCP backing to be part of the AAAC.

On a side note, I have noticed that most of the “experts” and “visionaries” who helped craft current FAA regulations/policies are no longer in the drone business; others are on their way out. Future generations of hobbyists took it on the chin for CCP #RID.

Was it flawed thinking in general, or going along to get along with poor regulation doomed their business plan?

Whatever the case, that fact is something to be concerned about.

In past years, attendees had a hard time making it through the expo hall due to the size of the show and community closeness. People were more interested in the issues stifling innovation; now, they accept the dismal situation as the norm. When the history is lost, the dysfunction is taken as part of the process—more controversial notions about an industry that is healthy and vibrant in China.

The members of the old guard I did talk to expressed dismay at the opportunities lost and privately think that another country would be first to integrate drones into their airspace. It will be a humiliated FAA that will play second fiddle, and the domestic industry playing catch up—no surprise to me; just interesting to hear others come around to the same.

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