FAI International Drones Conference and Expo

2018 Conference

Held at the EPFL Rolex Learning Center, the conference brings together high-level speakers, industry leaders and drone fans from around the world.

The aim of the event is to create greater understanding about how drones are, and could be, used by everyone from hobbyists to huge companies and top-flight drone racers, as well as how they affect the use of air space and our view on the world.

The global phenomenon that is drones makes them a hugely exciting area within air sports, for which the FAI is the world governing body.

But as with any fast-growing activity, the burgeoning popularity of drones and drone sports has created big challenges that need careful management. Not least how drones will share air space with other aviators and air sports enthusiasts.

The FAI’s long-term objective is to create a world where safe participation in air sports and recreational flying is available to everyone – including drone pilots – at a reasonable cost.

Coupled with its history of promoting innovation, its regulatory experience, and its location at the heart of Switzerland’s booming drone sector, this objective makes the FAI the ideal organisation to run this international drone conference centred on three main themes:


The DRONEMASTERS Meetup was part of the 2018 FAI International Drones Conference and Expo.

MeetUps connect nearly 4,000 experts and enthusiasts from business, science, society, and politics, who share their insights and ideas across all sectors to accelerate the evolution of the drone ecosystem.

DRONEMASTERS is an incubator focusing on automated aerial mobility and drones in all areas. Founded in 2015, DRONEMASTERS promotes sports as a driver of technological development. DRONEMASTERS has organised numerous cross-industry platforms around automated mobility, including conferences and meetups, which have attracted up to a hundred thousand people. In 2016, DRONEMASTERS invented the Dronathon, a 42,195 km drone marathon for commercial drones.


From grassroots through to elite level, drone sports are one of the fasters growing air sports.

And the first-person view (FPV) nature of drone sports, and increasing popularity of e-gaming, means fans from across the globe can use the Internet t o get involved.

At present, racing is the most popular form of drone sport. However, new ways to fly drones competitively, including team-based sports, are also emerging.

These new formats was one of the big Drones and Sports topics at the 2018 conference, where there was also a focus on how the FAI connects drone fans at the grassroots level with the sport’s top compet itors, and how modern technology can be used to improve the spectator experience to get even closer to the sport.

Last but not least, the conference included a first look at the still futuristic concept of multicopters large enough to carry the pilot, and thus function as a flying racing car.

Speakers on the Drones and Sports theme included pilots, event organisers and representatives of air sports organisations from around the world, as well as FAI officials.

Visitors also had the chance to experience the exhilaration of drone sports first hand – by attending the on-site FAI Drone Racing World Cup event organised by the Swiss Rotor Sports Association.


The burgeoning popularity of drones for both commercial and recreational use has caused the number of drones in the sky to shoot up in recent years.

Consequently, one of the main challenges facing the global drone, traditional aviation, and air sports communities is how to safely integrate all these extra drones into an already crowded air space.

Attendees at the 2018 FAI International Drones Conference and Expo could therefore hear lots about the regulatory framework being developed to ensure drones are used safely by both businesses and individuals, as well as the different types of technology that can help drone operators adhere to these rules.

Topics covered at the 2017 conference included the presentation of a completely new airspace concept, the challenges linked to using drones in long distance operations, such as the maintenance of railway lines, and the developments being made in safety-related technology such as anti-collision and tracking systems.

The 2018 edition of the conference presented the progress that has been made for accommodating this fledgling form of flying with all other existing aerial activities.

The conference showcased the latest gadgets for end users to secure safe drone operation, and offered a platform for discussion of both government authorities’ views on safety, and the economic opportunities arising out of drone developments.

The safety management of participants and spectators – imperative to successful drone sports event organisation – was also included in the conference programme.


Drones are constantly developing, with new applications emerging all the time. Originally designed for military use, they are now an integral part of many industries. Modern day uses include surveying buildings, checking farmland, delivering parcels, and rescuing people facing life-threatening emergencies such as floods.

Drones are also transforming how we spend our free time, with millions of people around the world using them to capture video footage and photographs.

In 2017, presentations around this theme included absorbing speeches from industry leaders on how drones are being used in transport and logistics, for humanitarian needs, and to improve data analysis. There were also far-reaching discussions about how drones will be used in the future and are already changing our view on the world.

The 2018 edition of the conference highlighted the progress that has been made in the area of innovation, for example with regard to personal transport and autonomous flying. Challenges such as energy management and endurance will also be discussed.