NFPA Journal, Rise of the Machines by Jesse Roman

A great article by NFPA that speaks to the future of robotics and unmanned systems, which includes an overview of “who” is doing “what” in this space.

IT’S 8:45 IN THE MORNING and I’m sitting in the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, listening to Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” bump through the sound system of a dark, cavernous convention hall.

Surrounding me, accented by neon lights, are a few thousand robotics engineers. We sip coffee, check our smartphones, and await the official kick-off to Unmanned Systems 2015, one of the world’s largest conferences and exhibitions for drones and unmanned robots. The music suddenly becomes dramatic and much louder, and huge video screens on either side of the stage depict animated drones and robots of all types swimming, rolling, and flying. Colin Guinn, an executive with the company 3D Robotics and host of the event’s general session, bounds onto the stage with the energy of a cannonball.

“Welcome to Unmanned Systems 2015—let’s get excited!” Guinn exclaims, raising his arms and clapping his hands. “There are over 7,000 of you here from 55 countries, more than 200 education sessions, and 350,000 square feet of exhibit space—that’s four football fields of drones and other fun stuff!”

An hour later, with the crowd sufficiently pumped up, we stream into the vast exhibit hall and encounter a world that could have come from the imagination of Willie Wonka’s tech-savvy younger brother. Drones, sensors, robots, and gizmos of all sorts are suspended overhead, rolling across the floor, swimming in tanks, and flying in netted enclosures. Every inch of the convention hall’s four football fields of space buzzes with industry elites, eager startups, deep-pocketed investors, and curious onlookers like me, all preparing for a future when these robots will be as familiar to us as the phones we now carry in our pockets. The conference has a strong “we-can-change-the-world” flavor, and exhibit booths are rampant with pithy slogans like “Lock In the Unmanned Advantage” and, my favorite, “Making Tomorrow Today.”

Read complete article here: