Each year at a different United States location, the XPONENTIAL show brings together technologies that improve some of the most fascinating missions across both commercial and government/defense applications. The just-concluded show in Denver was no exception, and you can clearly see the evolution of the event over the years.
Initially known as AUVSI, the conference obviously showcases airborne platforms. Now, the focus of 'XPONENTIAL' is as much about payloads and instruments as it is on the latest in drone technology. What we hear in our own business we heard at the show: "I have challenges that drones and imaging sensors can solve, but I need help getting everything integrated."
Indeed, from crop disease detection and mining to environmental monitoring and ISR, the 'integrated airborne solution' is in high demand. To put it succinctly, the drone is basically a vehicle that carries instruments. In Headwall's case, that means a confluence of hyperspectral, LiDAR, thermal, RGB, and GPS-IMU. Our users need all of these instruments aboard one craft, and the challenge is to pair everything up so that it is size-and-weight balanced, optimized for the mission, and where the data streams are synchronized ('data fusion').
At XPONENTIAL we spoke to drone manufacturers who all recognize the synergy between platforms and payloads. They also recognize that users need help integrating everything. One representative noted, "When it comes to crop science, you have windows of opportunity that you can't afford to miss." Getting everything assembled, integrated, and tested takes an amount of time that many users in both commercial and government sectors just don't have.
What we found at XPONENTIAL was an eagerness to fill this 'middle ground' with companies who understand both the platform side as well as the payload side. There are more than enough companies focused on one or the other. We are nevertheless finding that our technical ability to 'understand the mission' from both a data perspective and an airborne one gets customers underway sooner and more affordably than ever.