Ted Bahr is the President and CEO of BZ Media, producer of multiple technology trade shows (several of which were acquired in 2017 by various entities). Most notably he is the brains and execution force behind Interdrone, considered the most prominent modern drone trade show in the world.
We’ve seen as many drone trade shows as drone hardware companies pop up over the last few years… What separates Interdrone, and what are you excited about for the future?
I think the trade show market has settled out pretty quickly. In North America the three shows that matter are (in chronological order):
AUVSI Xponential: Attendance 7,000 but maybe 50-70% defense-related. Sheer mass makes it viable for the commercial market, and it’s the big show in the Spring.
InterDrone: Attendance 3,500. No defense folks, but it covers the entire commercial drone market from soup (components) to nuts. Pretty much everyone who is anyone is there. As DJI told us, “You guys won.”
Comm UAV Expo: Only half the size of InterDrone, but very targeted on enterprise. Because both shows are in Vegas and near each other on the calendar, the attendee base is pretty unique at each show. The acquisition of the San Jose walk-in show Drone World Expo is kind of a non-factor. Those guys were losing money and someone had to take them out.
You’ve also worked on a drones-in-retail summit… What were some of the key things users took away from getting together to discuss drone sales?
Yes, it’s too bad Drone Dealer Expo didn’t take off. It’s just not a big enough niche to pull in the buyers from the big-box resellers, and a lot of the smaller players (small drone dealers) frankly go to InterDrone or other shows… I think a smaller summit could work, but it’s tough to get all the players in one room – especially if they are competitors. The takeaway is that DJI’s “scorched Earth” policy has essentially obliterated the retail market; basically, they own it. And they continue to eat their own young, ensuring that none of the other Chinese manufacturers can get a foothold.
When you’re curating speakers and agendas for your shows, what do you and your team look for in proposals and submissions?
Either wide, broad appeal, or very deep on a technical topic. We are happy to work with you in this way: submit a bunch of ideas—just a title and sentence or two—and we will tell you if we are interested or not. This way you don’t waste a lot of time, and we get what we want. We prefer speakers to be experts in the field, often users. Often we will blend in vendors—who often are experts and do a reasonable job of staying non-partial—on the panels.
What were some of the best keynotes given at Interdrone over the last few years?
Well the head of the FAA is always a draw just for sheer “importantness.” Having the CEO of Intel last year wasn’t too bad either. Keynotes should be visual and big picture. Chris Anderson’s keynotes (first 2 InterDrones) were always good. Greg Agvent from CNN was pretty good. Romeo is always good. The Intel keynote was good.
What topics are you excited to hear discussion about this year?
LAANC, use of drones in verticals, especially new ones like insurance, counter UAS, whatever the latest FAA-related discussion on regulations is. We have a fair number of proven speakers on the bread-and-butter topics, so don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off us.
How has the makeup of exhibitors changed over the last few years? Do you see any trends? New types of companies or technology becoming more popular?
Oh my, that’s been a HUGE change, especially at InterDrone. Way more grown up, so to speak. The first year we had companies like Hobbico. Now we’re getting dominated by Intel, AeroVironment, PrecisonHawk, Drone Deploy etc… Essentially, since InterDrone is The Big Show, we reflect the marketplace at that point in time. We’ve become quite “enterprise-y”.
Tell us about what we can expect at Interdrone 2018.
Too early to tell, but lot’s more of the same good stuff. Elwell has been invited to keynote, and the enterprise tracks are expanded. More surveying and mapping. A new re-conference program on putting together a public safety drone program (fire, police etc.) Frankly, the most exciting stuff comes in 4 months before the show—this world moves so fast.