Drone Tech Expo Ireland 2017 - Interview with Ian Kiely

We caught up with Ian Kiely to talk about Drone & Tech Expo Ireland, coming soon to Dublin, Ireland on March 10-12th.


Drone & Tech Expo Ireland is coming to RDS, Dublin on March 10-12th, for its second edition. Its founder and organizer Ian Kiely talk to us here at Skytango about what’s new in Drone & Tech Expo Ireland 2017.

In 2016 the Drone & Tech Expo Ireland attracted 2,000+ attendees, 20+ exhibitors and 15+ speakers over the 3 days of the event. Overall, it was a great success (check our review of Drone Expo Ireland 2016 and Ian Kiely’s post-event interview), and has quickly become a highlight of Irish drone community events, even though it was first conceptualised and organized in less than 5 months, Ian told us in our first interview with him last year.

It was the first Irish national drone event dedicated to both the professional space and the general public – positioning itself in the market in a distinctive way from the other great drone event in Ireland, Drone Data X Conference, which focuses more on B2B and commercial applications and is not open to the general public.

We are really glad to hear from Ian that Drone & Tech Expo Ireland has grown considerably since 2016!

New sponsors (including FM104, Bank of Ireland, Samsung, Mayo CoCo and Dublin County Choppers) and the momentum gained since last year’s success has allowed Drone & Tech Expo Ireland 2017 to grow its offer in terms of exhibition space, workshops and activities for both the professional (which will get a dedicated day on Friday 10th of March) and the general public (open doors on Saturday and Sunday 11-12th of March).

The expanding list of speakers include:

  • our own CEO and founder Steven Flynn talking about the challenges of being a professional drone operator
  • Dave McQuillan of Azimap speaking about Orthophotography and GIS
  • Vernon Kerswell from Extreme Flyers on micro drone racing with first person view (FPV)
  • Oisin McGrath from DroneSAR presenting their new search and rescue App which recently partnered with DJI
  • Bart Zondag of GeoInspect giving insights into Lidar mapping solutions
  • Gearoid O Briain from FlyRyte on how to become a drone pilot
  • Kristian Terkildsen on the unique programme in Drone Technology at the University of Southern Denmark
  • Oren Aviram of ParaZero on safely integrating commercial drones into the urban airspace

Among the exhibitors, Copter Shop Ireland displaying a full range of DJI, The Camera Centre offering hands-on on Yuneec, iFly Technology, Cover Drone, Colas Ireland, Smart Finance, GPS2Find and lots more will provide ample coverage of services for drone pros and enthusiasts.

Activities will include a doubled track for FPV racing, with competitive races taking place courtesy of FPV Leinster. Both pros and the general public will be able to test drones in the large indoor demo area or the outside flying space. If you like gadgets, Samsung will showcase new IoT connected devices, and there will be electric skateboards to try out, VR devices and drone flight simulators. The Irish Armed Forces will also display new applications in a large area and Dublin Fire Brigade will showcase thermal imaging with drones.

It really sounds a promising event. Read this great interview with Ian, and come meet us at the event! We will be there to showcase Skytango!


Hey Ian. Drone & Tech Expo was a big success last year. What’s different in the 2017 edition?

Thanks! Last year we only had a short time to pull things together. We have been promoting the event since then and have grown our following which has allowed us to move to a much bigger area in the RDS. Friday the 10th March is a B2B day with the weekend open to the public. 9.30am – 5.30pm.

Running an event like this takes a lot of work, organization, and support. Who are the key individuals on your team, and what industry support do you have locked in?

Industry support is brilliant, training companies, insurance providers, professional operators, emergency services, Irish Armed Forces and re-sellers are all getting on board, offering all manner of services. We also have a range of drones on sale with knowledgeable people on hand to guide you. The core team is Peter Downey, Ian Mac Mahon, Sergio our tech guy, a new intern that looks promising and myself.

Ian Kiely Peter Downey at Drone Tech Expo

Do you expect any changes in the audience from last year?

This year we have a broader range of industry end-users and support from larger entities like Samsung, BOI, Mayo CoCo and FM104. There are also lots of new pilots, enthusiasts and FPV racers. Ticket sales are strong and we have been promoting all year in a variety of locations.

How has the drone industry changed in the last year globally and in Ireland?

There is a greater acceptance among the public as people are becoming more educated about the technology and thirst for newer, improved designs grows. FPV has exploded with many enclaves and casual clubs meeting and competing. We have more than doubled the size of the track this year to allow for competitive racing. Connectivity between devices is growing rapidly and with the introduction of gadgets like the Hololens, hackathons springing up and VR, innovation is rife fuelled by improving battery capacity. It is spilling into the drone world for sure.

The last 12 months has seen struggling manufacturers falling behind and there is lots of regulatory discussion taking place. Entities like the Irish Aviation Authority are exploring all possible routes before making rash decisions. The technology is moving so fast it is difficult to legislate.

What have been the most significant technological advancements in drones in the last year, and are you showcasing some of them in the event?

Passenger Drones in Dubai! That has been a huge leap forward. It is way too early for them here and the Irish market is a little small to attract just yet, but we do expect to have some interesting large craft on display and lots of interactive experiences.

Drones exhibiting at Drone Tech Expo

Do you think Irish companies (not in the drone industry) are embracing this innovative technology?

The shift has definitely begun. I have traveled the country this year talking to various industries –  equine, agri, livestock, state agencies, construction, inspections, mapping and fisheries, the list grows daily. Inquiries have come in from all walks of life – some good, some a little unrealistic but in general mostly workable situations.

Ian Kiely organizer of Drone Tech Expo working with crop spraying drone

Ian Kiely working in the field with a crop spraying drone

One of the goals of Irish Drone Expo 2016 was to showcase the benefits drones are bringing to the society to the general public. Do you feel the public perception of drones, globally and in Ireland, has been improving in the last year?

Yes! People are far more aware of the benefits. Education has improved but some people can still get a bit annoyed. I was accosted recently by an individual. Once he calmed down and I explained what I was doing and had permission to do it, he was ok.  It is good to wear identifiable clothing. Sometimes they even ask for a go after!

Testing drones outside RDS Drone Tech Expo

Are the challenges faced by drone operators in Ireland changed in the last few years? What do you see the top challenge moving forward?

There has been an increase in the number of pilots. The general feeling is that it is too much for individuals to operate a drone business. It is easier to collaborate or join forces, as you get far more done. There is a huge amount of preparation and training that the client rarely sees.

It’s only €5 to register your drone with the IAA, anything above 1 kilo. The cost of training has come down and the test is also more affordable.

I believe one of the top challenges at present is funding although this is improving and places like Mayo are making a concerted effort to encourage R&D it can be tough to get going. Investors are paying attention, waiting to see where things will go. I was lucky to start with a €2500 grant from the Dept Social Protection and the Back To Work Enterprise Allowance having been injured for a prolonged period. I was lucky to find investment and partners to fund our own company. We have invested significantly more since then.

Aibotix showcased at Drone Tech Expo Ireland

Are you looking to expand the Drone Tech & Expo to other countries?

At present, it is not on the cards. I was recently told that there were 8 significant drone events in the UK last year and that the number is nearer 30 this year. We enjoy doing the Expo, but it is 5 months of work and we have our own drone company to run. I am not saying never though!

Can you reveal to our readers a surprise you have in place at the Drone Tech & Expo 2017?

They would not be surprises if I told you! I am pretty sure we will have some interesting craft that you won’t see anywhere else in Ireland. Come with an open mind and arrive early.


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