DJI’s AirWorks 2022 In Review
Recently, Las Vegas played host to DJI’s 6th annual AirWorks 2022 conference. The three-day event spotlighted innovations from the drone manufacturing powerhouse, exhibitors, and an impressive collection of industry speakers.
From October 10-12, over 600 attendees from 46 countries met at the Mirage Hotel and Casino for the conference. If you missed the event, never fear.
I was fortunate enough to attend DJI’s AirWorks 2022, and look forward to sharing a few of the highlights from the show.
New DJI Dock: Star of the Show
Without a doubt, the star of the show was the DJI Dock. Attendees had the privilege of seeing the dock operate live and in-person for the first time.
If you’re unfamiliar with the DJI Dock, it’s the company’s drone-in-a-box solution. The rugged outer shell houses a Matrice 30, and can operate day or night, rain or shine.
While inside the DJI Dock, the Matrice 30 is protected from the elements, and recharges its battery. Using the DJI FlightHub 2, the dock can launch the Matrice 30 on preprogrammed missions, effectively operating the drone autonomously.
The dock helps to keep the Matrice 30 available for flights with little downtime. A fast-charging design uses TEC air conditioning to cool batteries quickly. Thanks to rapid cooling, charging batteries from 10% to 90% only takes 25 minutes.
An outdoor demonstration area was set up just outside the Mirage Event Center. Using the FlightHub 2 software, the crew from DJI let the dock launch and recover the drone several times.
Although the restrictive airspace of Las Vegas made more complicated missions impossible, the operations we witnessed were smooth and efficient.
At DJI’s AirWorks 2022, it was also announced that limited availability of the DJI Dock will begin in Q2 of 2023.
DJI Unveils a New Agricultural Drone
In addition to the DJI Dock, a static display of the company’s latest agricultural drone was present: the AGRAS T40 crop spraying.
This massive precision agriculture UAV brings spraying to a new level, with a total weight of 50kg (about 110 pounds).
A coaxial twin rotor design increases the payload capacity by 30% over previous models. The twin rotor design allows the AGRAS T40 to carry an amazing 40kg of spray.
That’s enough to cover over 52 acres of farmland per hour. Transporting the drone is made easy through foldable arms that reduce the unfolded size of the aircraft by 70%.
Other features that make the drone a game changer are a dual atomized spraying system, Active Phased array Radar and Binocular Vision, and DJI Terra. The UAV can also support surveying and mapping missions, making it an ideal choice for all agricultural operations.
Exhibitors at DJI's AirWorks 2022
At least 26 exhibitors were on site in the exhibit hall. Several vendors showcased new equipment. One of the notable releases was DroneDeploy’s announcement that their software will now be available for the Mavic 3 Enterprises on DJI’s Remote.
The RC Pro Enterprises can now load DroneDeploy directly onto the remote. Gone are the days of using your cell phone to pilot enterprise-level DJI drones.
Other exhibitors included Agroscout LTD, Airdata UAV, Inc, All Mobile Video, Inc., ANGELSWING, Inc., CENTUM research & technology, Dongguan Flyfire Technology Co., Ltd, DroneSense Inc., FlytBase Inc, Go Professional Cases Inc, Guangzhou Chengzhi Intelligent Machinery Technology Co., Ltd., LinkedAll Products Inc, Loveland Innovation, Propeller Aero, Inc, RIIS Inc, SBG Systems, SHENZHEN JLIDRONE TECH CO. (Zhong Ke), Shenzhen SHARE UAV Technology Co., Ltd, SkyeBrowse Inc., SPH Engineering, SIA, Sulmora S.A (Codigo del Sur), SZ Soarability Technology, Terrasolid Ltd, Virtual Surveyor NV, and Wuhan Arover Technology Col. LTD.
DJI’s AirWorks 2022 brought together an impressive collection of UAV industry experts, innovators, and researchers. Speakers included Ocean Alliance CEO Dr. Iain Kerr, Drone Girl founder Sally French, DJI’s Corporate Communication Director for North America Adam Lisberg, experts in the first responder field, researchers, and many other UAV business professionals.
One theme woven throughout all the talks was the relationship between DJI and the diverse group of people and organizations using their products. According to Adam Lisberg, for DJI, it is incredible to see how people use their products.
In the hands of such a variety of operators, use cases never imagined when DJI designed a given platform come to life.
Examples like Ocean Alliance’s ‘Snot Bot’, or using DJI drones to address world food shortages, took center stage. It’s hard to imagine that DJI started just 15 years ago with a few college kids tinkering with UAV motors in their dorm rooms.
The first full day’s keynote address featured Grant Hosticka (Head of Enterprise Solution Engineering, North America DJI), James Pipe (VP of Product at DroneDeploy), Nick Dryer (Senior Manager UAS BNSF), Ryan Bracken (Chief Product Officer DroneSense), and Adam Welsh (Head of Global Policy DJI).
The presentation focused on how advances in technology continue to expand what’s possible when using drones.
DroneDeploy announced its app’s availability on the DJI RC Pro Enterprise remote. For many people, this will simplify their workflow.
With enterprise drones like the Mavic 3 Enterprise (while using the RTK attachment and DroneDeploy), users can achieve accuracy to within a few centimeters. If you’re looking to get into precision mapping, it’s an inexpensive, yet effective platform you might want to look into!
More First Day Highlights
Speaking for railroad giant BNSF, Nick Dryer discussed the company’s use of drones for track inspections and finding lost railroad cars. Between 2015 and 2022, BNSF has flown over 13,000 flights ranking up over 4,500 flight hours. They now have over 200 active pilots in their network and over 900 site users of drone-collected data.
It’s proof that UAV technology is helping to make the railroad industry much more efficient.
Working together, DroneSense and AXON AIR have created one of the leading drone software platforms for the public safety industry. As Ryan Bracken explained, the tools they created for public safety can be used for search & rescue, wildland firefighting, aerial reconnaissance, disaster management, maritime applications, and more.
Wrapping up the discussion was Adam Welsh. His comments highlighted DJI’s commitment to airspace safety, enhancing data security, and operating at the forefront of policy changes like the FAA’s Remote ID rules.
It was a great start to the conference and set us up for the breakout sessions.
Breaking Down the Breakout Sessions
At DJI’s AirWorks 2022, breakout sessions lasted two days.
With topics that covered every facet of the drone industry, it wasn’t easy choosing which ones to attend, since three to four were typically taking place simultaneously. Here are a few notes from some I attended, which I found particularly interesting.
In the public safety sector, Deputy Chief Richard Fields presented on the Challenges and Successes of a Drone Program in a Major Metropolitan Fire Department. Chief Fields (Los Angeles Fire Department) discussed the importance of building a team to meet your agency’s needs, having a sustainability plan, and using transparency to build great community relationships.
He believes all were crucial in making their UAV program a success.
During the panel titled AEC & Surveying Panel – How P4RTK Stacks Up Against the Latest Surveying Solutions from DJI, experts validated the reliability of the P4RTK. DJI Solutions Engineer Kyle Miller, Propeller’s Director – Partnerships Richard Hordern-Gibbings, and Ryan Hittie Innovation Specialist for Brasfield & Gorrie, made up the panel of speakers.
The main point of the discussion highlighted how only a few years ago, UAV mapping accuracy could be questioned. But now, the technology is as just as reliable as traditional surveying methods.
The Innovative ‘Snot Bot’
Finally, on the side of innovative uses of UAV technology was the presentation by Dr. Iain Kerr. With his team, Dr. Kerr has been researching whales since 1971, when Ocean Alliance was founded. The group has pioneered using UAV technology (snot bot) to collect biological data from the mist emitted from a whale’s blowhole.
During the presentation, Dr. Kerr let the audience see their latest innovation, a unique tagging system that safely drops a device onto the back of a surfacing whale. The tag stays on the whale for about 72 hours and records video, movement, and biological data. During the first 28 attempts to tag whales, 21 tags were successfully attached. Using UAV technology, the team is rewriting the book on whale behavior and helping to protect these amazing creatures.
Key Takeaways from DJI's AirWorks 2022
DJI’s AirWorks 2022 was a huge success. I enjoyed the innovation and excitement of the DJI Dock, the quality of the exhibitors, and the exceptional speakers.
The breakout sessions provided a wealth of information. I only wish the conference had lasted longer so I could have participated in more discussions than I did.
If you have not had the chance to attend AirWorks, I highly recommend it. It’s full of the latest technology, incredible speakers from all sorts of industries, and showcases some of the unique solutions drones provide.
I’ll be at next year’s conference and hope to see you there too!
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