The Brisbane-founded World of Drones and Robotics Congress has become one of the leading events in the industry.
Linking local companies with potential partners around the globe and sparking strong cross-sector collaborations, the Congress highlights how business events can deliver lasting legacies well beyond the conference.
The Brisbane-based conference champions the fast-developing sector of unmanned and autonomous aerial and underwater vehicles. It has been credited as a key driver of the industry’s establishment across southeast Queensland.
World of Drone and Robotics Congress (WoDaRC) Director Ashley Gordon said the event was focused on connecting businesses involved in the application of drone technologies. These uses span health, industry, transport, resources and defence.
“It’s all about linking promising Queensland business in the drones-application business to potential partners and consumers internationally,” he said. “It’s about what you can do with the drones and robots.”
It started with a partnership between Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC), event organiser Gordon and Convenor and Program Chair, Associate Professor Catherine Ball, who saw the need for a curated, high-quality event for the drone sector.
Supported by BCEC, the Queensland Government and Brisbane Economic Development Agency, the event took off.
Now in its sixth year, with a myriad of linked international events, the Brisbane flagship event brings together manufacturers, academics, customers, investors, developers and investors.
These include major drone application companies such as Wing, the company owned by Google parent Alphabet, that set up in Logan, south of Brisbane. In an Australian-first, it has been delivering items ranging from coffee and roast chicken, to consumer goods, to homes and businesses around Logan.
Previous participants included Google’s attempt at stratospheric balloon tech Loon; photography and videography drone company DJI; advocacy groups Women Who Drone and World of Drones Education; and the maker of the world’s first mass manufactured hydrogen fuel cell drone, Doosan Mobility Innovation.
Gordon said connections enabled through WoDaRC had put local players on the map internationally.
“The biggest thing is the network,” he said. “By virtue of the fact it is in Brisbane, WoDaRC has put the local drones and robotics business on the global stage. There are companies and organisations that are now doing business with Queensland-based companies that did not know we even had an industry here, until they came across the Congress.
“It has certainly put the industry on the world stage. There is no doubt about that.
“There are companies who will tell you that the entire growth of their business is through contacts they met at the World of Drones and Robotics Congress. It has served as a B2B vehicle where there wasn’t one.”
Delegates have described the event as a way to connect with “inspiring individuals” at the forefront of the industry.
“WoDaRC is more than just another drone or robotics conference, it’s an opportunity to learn, network, engage and get empowered from the world’s top experts from a number of technology professions,” said Women-Who-Drone’s Elena Buenrostro.
Cyber Security Consultant DroneSec Founder Michael Monnik described it as “not what you would expect at a traditional conference”.
“We have attended and spoken [at WoDaRC] because of the speaker calibre, talk content and novel ideas presented by cutting edge industry,” he said.
“It has brought us together with other participants that resulted in new research, business opportunities and friends. For us an additional plus was the ability for the conference to bring in school students, and make it easily accessible to those at university, where most of the new advancements and ideas are being shared.”
More than a meet-and-greet, the WoDaRC has also brought trade delegations from China, Japan and is expecting a group from South Korea in the coming years.
“We’re bringing people who are involved in drone manufacture, research and application into Australia as part of a delegation,” Gordon said.
“We’re bringing in international people who are consumers of these sorts of things and expose them to what is happening in Queensland. That is valuable.”
Given its impact on the niche industry and its valiant continued annual operation throughout the pandemic – including the world’s biggest in-person conference for the sector in 2020 – WoDaRC has won a raft of awards.
These include winning the Australian Meetings Events Association 2020 Association Event of the Year and Event Legacy Awards. These prestigious awards were in recognition of the trade and opportunities that the congress has created for Queensland-based businesses, developers and researchers.
WoDaRC also won a Lord Mayor of Brisbane’s Business Award in 2020 for its impact in facilitating trade partnerships with China, Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and its international trade events.
The event’s 2021 hybrid model of in-person and online delegates highlighted its international reach.
It achieved 348 delegates in person, despite the closure of both interstate and international borders, as well as more than 160 international attendees tuning in from their desks in the USA, Canada, Asia and Africa.
In 2022 WoDaRC will also operate an event in Singapore this September, as part of a partnership with the Asia Pacific Assisted Robotics Association, and host a New Zealand edition event in 2023.
“In 2022 we’re hopeful of reengaging with interstate and international delegates who have only been able to attend virtually for the last two years.,” said Gordon.
“The indications are that they want to and people will make the effort to come. We’re hopeful of enhanced physical attendance this year compared to the last two years, superficially with interstate and international people. It’s so much better when they can come and visit projects and sites.”
WoDaRC 2022 will be held on November 14-15, 2022, at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.
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