Vijay Kumar – Opening Keynote at DARC

Vijay KumarDr. Vijay Kumar, luminary roboticist, professor at U Penn, and member of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab is treating DARC with a glimpse into the future of automated flying robots.

His work centers on developing advanced autonomous robot swarms that are capable of collaborating on diverse tasks such as mapping, construction, environmental monitoring, and transporting materials.

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Call for Proposals: Drone Demo Show

afterdarkWe are excited to announce a limited number of presentation spots for researchers, technologists, hackers, and artists to show off cutting-edge current work related to aerial robotics. Accepted demo proposals will be given between four and twelve minutes at the drone demo show at the end of the first day of programming (tentatively titled “After DARC”).

You’ll be on the main stage in front of an in-house audience of hundreds and many more via live stream. Presenters will receive a full complementary three-day conference registration.

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Can you help us make DARC as diverse as possible?

When we decided to put together the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference, one of our main goals was to bring together a diverse set of perspectives, expertise, and knowledge. As we continue to firm up details about our program and announce new speakers, we hope you’ll notice the incredibly broad spectrum of topics to be covered at DARC, as well as the expansive range of backgrounds represented by our speakers, from fighter pilots and engineers to entrepreneurs, drone journalists, and law and policy experts.

Unfortunately, what you may also notice is that women and minorities are greatly underrepresented in our current lineup. With about 60% of our program complete, only about a third of our speakers are women, and even fewer are minorities. Even our Call for Proposals, which received a tremendous response, in both quality and quantity of proposals, yielded fewer than 10 proposals from women, compared to over 50 proposals from men.

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MacArthur Foundation supports Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference

It’s our great pleasure to share that the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is joining as a major supporter of the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference.

MacArthur’s support enables us to bring robotics, technology and legal professionals from all over the globe to take part in this three-day event in New York City.

DARC is a “big think” space to explore the proliferation of flying robots. Call them UAVs, UAS, RPAs or drones—there will be many more of them in the sky in the coming years.

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Team BlackSheep: Rock Stars or Rogue Operators?

Part of what we do is just stir up controversy – just to show what can be done with these drones.

– Raphael Pirker, Team Blacksheep

Team BlackSheep is a group of radio-controlled aircraft pilots that has been energetically pushing the boundaries of aerial videography since 2009. Team BlackSheep was founded in 2009 in Zurich by Swiss drone enthusiast Raphael Pirker — aka “trappy.” He’ll be at DARC, along with his lawyer, Brendan Schulman. More on that in a moment.

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First peek at DARC conference program

Today we’re taking the wraps off the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference program:

[[DARC program]]

This is a preliminary schedule and will continue to evolve in the coming weeks. We will be adding several sessions, talks and special events. And fair warning: sessions are still subject to change or cancellation.

You may also notice that we’re holding back on revealing the DARC keynote speakers. Stay tuned to the DARC blog, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to our mailing list to be informed of additions to the conference program!

[[Register for DARC!]]

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Thank you everyone who contributed to the DARC Call for Proposals!

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The response to our call for proposals was truly tremendous and we want to thank everyone who took the time to send us a proposal. Over the course of just a few weeks we received nearly one hundred great submissions covering an assortment of interesting topics like comparative drone law, satellite recon, sensor journalism, and drone spotting. While we aren’t able to accept all of your great ideas, we greatly appreciate your contributions.

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Registration now open for the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference!

Blast OffWe’re pleased to announce that registration is now open for the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference, the first-of-its-kind, massively multi-disciplinary event to examine civilian drones and their impact on society.  DARC brings together a wide spectrum of hobbyists, engineers, academics, activists, lawyers, policy makers, and industry professionals for a weekend of meaningful conversation, as well as the construction of concrete proposals and new applications of hardware and software.

More than a conference about the law, DARC will be a weekend of practical learnings from engineers, backyard hobbyists, drone journalists, and manufacturers of multimillion dollar aircraft, and will foster constructive discourse around the anxieties and aspirations attached to this emerging technology.

You can register for DARC by visiting  We’re offering early bird registration pricing at a 20% discount through July, so be sure to take advantage of our special rate.

Many of you may have also seen our Call for Proposals.  In just the last few weeks we have received an incredibly diverse range of proposals covering topics ranging from comparative drone law, general aviation and rural resistance, satellite recon, sensor journalism, drone spotting, and vaccine delivery.

Because of the tremendous response, we’re extending the submission deadline a bit longer, so keep sharing your ideas for DARC!  We invite contributions from all interested disciplines on or before June 30, 2013.  Proposals can be submitted at

We look forward to seeing you in New York City!

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Announcing our Partnership with Princeton CITP and Yale ISP

We’re thrilled to announce that the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University and the Information Society Project at Yale Law School have joined us as partners in bringing together the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference!

Yale ISP and Princeton CITP logos

Princeton CITP is a nexus of expertise in technology, engineering, public policy, and the social sciences. The Center’s research, teaching, and events address digital technologies as they interact with society.  As a joint effort between Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, CITP will help us bring the knowledge and expertise of the technical community to bear at DARC.

Yale Law School’s Information Society Project is an intellectual center addressing the implications of the Internet and new information technologies for law and society, guided by the values of democracy, development, and civil liberties.  The ISP has for years been one of the premier centers in the country studying these issues and is uniquely positioned to help us map existing legal and policy frameworks onto the emerging civilian drone space at DARC.

Our partnership with these two great organizations ensures that critical questions related to drone policy — both technical and legal in nature — will be given the deep analysis and consideration they deserve. We look forward to working with both as we continue to develop our program!

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In the News: UAS Test Site Selection

On February 14, 2012, Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act (Reauthorization Act), which mandated the FAA, NASA, and the Department of Defense to develop a drone test and research program. The program would research the safe operation and integration of drones into the National Airspace System (NAS), further developing critical guidelines for privacy. The collected data will provide a background for drone regulations to be released in 2015.

After multiple delays, the FAA announced in February that it was accepting proposals to develop six test sites where the research could be performed. Currently, 50 applicants from 37 states have submitted proposals for test sites with the promise of bringing lucrative drone industries to their state.

Keen on winning one of the precious test site designations, Ohio and Indiana have combined forces, sending in a joint application to the FAA. The partnership places both states in a prime position. Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and surrounding Dayton-Springfield are recognized regions of UAS research and development. Indiana in turn seeks to make use of its neighboring restricted airspace to create a larger area of operation.

Confident in the site designation, Ohio has set aside land and will build a UAS Center and Test Complex, which will oversee testing, operations, and research. The Ohio-Indiana partnership, however, faces significant competition from California, Washington, Texas, Florida, and Arizona.

In May, North Dakota’s legislature approved a $5 million appropriation to pursue drone industry development for the state. North Dakota will use $1 million to create the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and the remaining appropriation will be awarded North Dakota is chosen by the FAA. The hope is that the FAA, strapped with debt, will consider states that can provide economic support for the program.

There are even more localized efforts competing for FAA attention. The California Unmanned Aircraft Systems Portal or Cal UAS is one of the largest concerted efforts in the test site race. Cal UAS is a consortium of airports, military, engineering and research firms, and state and local leadership headed by Inyokern Airport and Indian Wells Valley Airport District.

The Cal UAS Portal is a proposed area of operations covering more than 70,000 sq miles. The area is an ideal space for testing as it covers a variety of terrain: deserts, mountains, valleys, and maritime. Cal UAS has rallied support throughout the state, which includes realtors, to bring drone testing to California.

The financial promise of a drones industry is high with an estimated impact of $82.1 billion between 2015 and 2025. However, there are those who value civil liberties, privacy, and personal well being over the economic potential. Across the country, anti-drone activists are pushing back against drone testing.

In April, the Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare, a coalition of peace and justice groups, held a month long anti-drone campaign in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and proposed drone test sites. The April Days of Action Against Drone campaign began a month after the final deadline to submit test and research site applications. As the FAA begins its tours of the proposed test sites in the next few months, these concerned citizens will continue to push back.

Regardless of the anti-drone movement, the FAA remains the largest impediment to the testing program. The test site selection process has been slow and fraught with many delays. According to the schedule set forth in the Reauthorization Act, the test sites should be up and running by January 2013. This goal will inevitably be pushed back, but hopefully will not affect the final 2015 regulation release.

DARC will continue to provide updates on the test site selection process.

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