Protests at drone expo in Los Angeles
Protestors briefly disrupted the opening of a Los Angeles consumer and commercial drone expo recently with chants blaming a speaker for predator drone deaths in Pakistan. The demonstration cut into a keynote speech by Austin Blue, President of Spectrum Aeronautical. Blue’s family owns General Atomics, a producer of the unmanned predator aircraft.
“Austin Blue, shame on you, how many deaths were caused by you?” the group chanted before being escorted out of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena by security. A second group outside the venue blamed drones for 3,000 deaths in Pakistan and warned that the LAPD obtained two recently.
The protests and disruption did little to wane enthusiasm for the Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle Systems Association’s inaugural Drone Expo at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. The expo catered to hobbyists, vendors, professional drone pilots and businesses interested in or already using drones with new product unveils and panels about the future of the industry.
Blue said the protestors – who were led away by security – had a right to speak out, just as people have a right to pilot drones. That kind of perception is what the drone industry has to overcome as it becomes more mainstream, but Blue said he is already seeing a shift.
“The applications that are going to increasing come to the forefront are the peaceful, economically helpful ones,” he said. Drones can help farmers plant crops efficiently, film studios capture beautiful aerial footage and activists monitor endangered wildlife, he said. Like the first commercial aircraft, Blue said drones will eventually move past their military background. “Nobody here is even remotely interested in using them as weapons,” Blue said.
Keith Kaplan, CEO of the Tesla Foundation and a founder of the UAVSA, said the Drone Expo started first as a small hotel-sized conference, but grew dramatically as the industry took off. The UAVSA advocates for fair regulations for both individuals and companies.