About the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference

rows of small dronesDARC is a multidisciplinary conference about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and drones—with an emphasis on civilian applications.

Attendees will take part in a far-ranging exploration of these technologies and see firsthand the latest advancements in aerial robotics. In addition to looking at the cultural impact, legal challenges, and business potential, we’ll also examine specific applications for drones including: agriculture, policing, wildlife conservation, weather, mapping, logistics, and more.

DARC is not just about theory—it’s also about practice. At the event, you’ll have opportunities to see flying robots in action and maybe even learn how to deploy a drone of your own. In addition to a technology demo, interactive workshops, and vendor booths, we’ve set the entire 3rd day aside for hacking. Register now!


Imagine a near future in which networks of autonomous robots roam the skies, performing everything from law enforcement, to communications, to crop dusting, shipping and logistics. Sound implausible? Perhaps—but that is the future that the aerospace industry and a new class of entrepreneurs are busy preparing.

At this moment, the FAA is working to integrate drones into civilian airspace, forcing a broad reconsideration of the laws and regulatory frameworks that protect vital interests like civil liberties, due process, privacy, innovation, and security.

But while some see peril, others see immense promise. Drones are currently being used by activists to document protests and police abuse, environmental violations, wildlife poaching and oil spills. Journalists imagine rapidly deployable tools for investigative reporting. Futurists envision a complete revolution in humanitarian response, with drones surveying disaster areas and coordinating the delivery of supplies and medication.

In one form or another, our skies are about to get more interesting.

Are we ready?

Drones are perhaps most closely associated with American foreign policy. But the drone phenomenon is much bigger. Whether deployed to protect endangered species in Sub-Saharan Africa, capture images from dramatic political protests, or dust crops in the American midwest, drones will reshape commerce, law enforcement, journalism, and other aspects of public life and culture in the 21st century.

Aerial robotics are being developed by legions of tinkerers and makers in garages, as well as multi-billion dollar defense companies. From $100 to $100,000, they’re propelled by many of the same factors as the personal computer—Moore’s law, economies of scale, ever more sophisticated software built by large companies or open source hackers.

At DARC, you will meet the engineers, businesspeople, lawyers, futurists, and elected officials who are making civilian drones commonplace.

Issues to be explored at DARC

General Interest & Zeitgeist

  • What’s the definition of a “drone” and what are the latest innovations in aerial robotics?
  • How will life be different with tens of thousands of drones in civilian skies?
  • In what contexts are drones being deployed today?
  • How might drones and automation affect the economy?
  • How are drones shaping popular culture?

Makers & entrepreneurs

  • What kinds of opportunities are available to DIY drone makers and operators?
  • What happens when a hobby drone crashes?
  • What’s the easiest way to build your own drone? What is the range kind of drones I can build or purchase? What open hardware and open software communities exist to support me? How do I begin?
  • What are the markets for new drone software and services?
  • How can aerial robotics technology, and DIY hardware more generally, be made more accessible to ordinary people?

Law & regulation

  • What are the current laws governing drones in the US and globally, and what will happen when drones are integrated into civilian airspace?
  • What is the interplay between state and federal regulations in this space and the role of federal preemption?
  • What kinds of civil liberties questions will arise, and how will the law address them?
  • What kinds of aerospace and liability questions will arise, and how will the law address them?
  • What kinds of innovation and IP questions will arise, and how will the law address them?

Privacy & surveillance

  • How are drones affecting or affected by cultures of surveillance?
  • Can a property owner prevent a drone from trespassing over his airspace?
  • Does the use of recording devices on drones implicate federal wiretapping prohibitions?
  • How are individual privacy and liberty affected by higher density and higher resolution surveillance?
  • Can civilian drones act as a counterbalance to state power?


  • How can drones be used to commit petty crimes (stalking, harassment, etc)? Do DIY drones introduce new security risks—and if so, how do we defend against them?
  • How are military drones changing the global security compact?
  • What is the relationship between drones and american foreign policy?
  • Is there sufficient civilian oversight in place for drones?
  • Where do open source and defense R&D intersect?

Get Involved

If you’d like to lead a session at DARC, please respond to our call for proposals: https://droneconference.org/proposals

Registration is now open. Follow us @droneconference on Twitter.