AUVSI’s XPONENTIAL is widely considered the largest, longest running unmanned vehicle systems conference and exposure in the western hemisphere. Historically, it is the primary event where the movers, shakers, and key influencers in the drone industry have gathered to network, cut deals, unveil new solutions, and grow their client base. But after two years of mask mandates and lockdowns that essentially knee-capped the trade show circuit, XPONENTIAL – like all other major events – took a hit.
Starting April 25, XPONENTIAL will return to the Orange County Convention Center for four days of educational programming, keynotes, networking, and business in the exposition hall. The Florida Peninsula Chapter of AUVSI (AUVSI Florida) is serving as the official host chapter for this year’s event, and they have something very special planned to help reunite the drone and unmanned vehicle systems industry – and jump-start XPONENTIAL 2022 as AUVSI marks it’s 50th anniversary.
The Greatest Xponential Kick Off Party Yet: We’ll See You There!
The event is called “KO” and the purpose is to create a new event that marks the start of XPONENTIAL with an amazing party that brings together friends, old and new, while also helping to raise funds for the non-profit mission of AUVSI Florida . DroneLife Editor Miriam McNabb sat down with AUVSI Florida President Christopher Todd to learn more about KO and what will make this party different from other industry events.
DroneLife: OK, why KO?
AUVSI Florida: I see what you did there – OK-KO – that is why the name is so fun! We wanted something that just rolled off the tongue and fit nicely with XPO. We envisioned having a kick-off party that was a real knock-out event, and KO just naturally came to mind. So, KO it became.
DroneLife: (Laughing) Got it. So how will KO be different from other industry events that we have attended in the past?
AUVSI Florida: KO is designed to open and kick off XPONENTIAL rather than close it down. We will set the pace for the rest of the week by hosting a high-energy, social networking party in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. KO will take place on Monday, April 25 from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm at Topgolf Orlando. The venue is located directly behind the Orange County Convention Center and right up the street from the major conference hotels. Attendees can walk to and from KO if they choose.
AUVSI Florida has negotiated a full buyout of Topgolf Orlando, and we are going to transform the venue into a three-tiered interpretation of air, land, and sea – the three primary domains of unmanned vehicle systems technology. Each level at KO will present special food and beverage concepts designed to pay homage to both the past and future of the industry in celebration of the 50th anniversary of AUVSI.
DroneLife: But isn’t having an event on Monday night somewhat of a risk? XPONENTIAL is just getting started at that point.
AUVSI Florida: We asked ourselves that same question. So, in November 2021, we worked with the AUVSI corporate team to survey AUVSI members as well as past XPONENTIAL attendees to learn which nights they preferred for networking parties. Monday came back as the top ranked choice. Based on that information, we started planning KO. When you think about it, Monday makes perfect sense. Exhibitors are already in town setting up on the show floor. Most attendees are already arriving because the show starts early on Tuesday morning. On Monday night, these folks will already be in Orlando looking for something to do, so we decided to throw them a party!
DroneLife: Is KO an official XPONENTIAL event?
AUVSI Florida: Yes, KO will be the official kick-off party for XPONENTIAL 2022 in Orlando. Perhaps it is easiest to think of it in these terms; XPONENTIAL is the Super Bowl, AUVSI is the NFL, and AUVSI Florida is the Miami Dolphins hosting the Super Bowl in South Florida. KO is then like the official Super Bowl Week kickoff party hosted by the Miami Dolphins who are part of the NFL. Go Dolphins!
DroneLife: Go pats! This party sounds like it could get expensive. How is the AUVSI Florida chapter paying for this event?
AUVSI Florida: At first glance, it was a daunting challenge. We are a Florida-based non-profit organization with very little money – certainly not enough to go out and pay for an event of this magnitude. But we also realized the unique opportunity that XPONENTIAL coming to Florida represents. The conference may not return here for another decade, or perhaps longer. We formed a planning committee that worked closely with our board of directors to assemble resources and shape the vision that became KO. It was a leap of faith, but one that is already proving successful. We are seeing an incredible response from industry sponsors, and we have started to sell tickets to the event.
DroneLife: Do you already have sponsors lined up for KO?
AUVSI Florida: Yes, we do, but we would like more! We are extremely pleased to announce that Percepto has signed on as the top sponsor for KO. Moving forward, the event will officially be called “KO presented by Percepto.” We are also delighted to have SMG Delivering Data as the host sponsor for KO’s VIP Lounge, and BRINC Drones as the host of the DRONERESPONDERS Public Safety Section – an area designed exclusively for first responders to mingle and relax.
Additional sponsors who have signed on to support the KO include Skydio, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VPIC), Pointerra, Censys Technologies, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), the AUVSI Lone Star Chapter, Navmar Applied Sciences Corporation (NASC), and others. And again, we are only just getting started.
DroneLife: Well, it certainly sounds like you are off to a great start! How are potential sponsors reacting to the KO concept?
AUVSI Florida: Almost everyone who has spoken to us has signed on. They love the concept. They see the value in participating in a social networking event to kickoff off XPONENTIAL and realize that KO presents an opportunity to help them increase brand awareness and help build relationships on the front end of the event to book appointments and drive more traffic to their exhibit booth on the trade show floor.
Topgolf is the perfect venue for KO sponsors and attendees to interact with one another. Gold-level and higher sponsors of KO will have their own golfing bays – like exhibit booths – at Topgolf where they can hang signage, place marketing collateral, interact with attendees, and even host their own golf contests if they choose. Add in food, beverages, and live DJ music, and suddenly KO becomes the ideal networking event to kick off XPONENTIAL.
DroneLife: Then KO will be more than just a golf party?
AUVSI Florida: Absolutely. Don’t get too hung-up on the “golf” part of Topgolf. Sure, everyone will have the opportunity to hit from the tees, play golf, and compete against the pros if they want to, but KO is really about the venue, not the golf. Topgolf is perfectly located right behind the convention center and very close to the hotels. It is a covered structure offering ample outdoor space, fresh air, and a rooftop patio where the DJ will be playing from. As I mentioned, we are going to transform the three tiers of Topgolf into representations of the air, land, and sea domains of the unmanned vehicle systems industry. We really couldn’t ask for a better venue or location to host this event.
DroneLife: How much are KO tickets and where can people purchase them?
AUVSI Florida: Tickets for KO are now on sale for $75 each at ko.auvsiflorida.org. That is the absolute lowest price you will see for this event. Last week, we allocated a certain number of tickets in a stealth presale for AUVSI members in Florida, and we still have a limited number of those tickets remaining at that price. Prices will be increasing consistently as we get closer to the event. If any tickets are remaining on the day of the event, they will be priced at $175 each — but we expect to sell out long before that.
DroneLife: What would you say to people who think Xponential Kick Off party tickets are priced on the high side?
AUVSI Florida: Well, we think the tickets are priced just right. KO is positioned as a VIP-style event, designed to reunite the entire industry after two years of masks and lockdowns. Each person who attends the KO party will receive complimentary access to the VIP food and beverage service including unlimited premium cocktails, beer, wine, and soft drinks, a special food experience based on the air, land, and sea theme, live DJ music, Unlimited Topgolf golf play, and other special surprises.
More importantly, the proceeds generated from the KO party will be used to directly support the non-profit missions of AUVSI Florida and the DRONERESPONDERS Florida Public Safety Coordination Group (FLOGRU). AUVSI Florida will use the money to support STEM education program and outreach surrounding robotic and unmanned vehicle systems, while FLOGRU will use funds generated from the public safety section to directly support education and training for Florida first responders using Drones for Good. We believe these are great missions and we hope that KO attendees and sponsors will take pride in knowing that they are helping to support these important endeavors.
DroneLife: What else do you want people to know about this event?
AUVSI Florida: Three final thoughts. First, we think this is going to be an amazing event. We are very grateful for the incredible support that we have received so far, and hope that momentum continues through the KO event. We believe it is important for large conferences like XPONENTIAL to leave a positive impact on the communities where they are held. That’s something we really want to see happen here in Florida, and hopefully in each XPONENTIAL host region moving forward. We believe the proceeds generated from the KO event will help AUVSI Florida conduct outreach and awareness programs that will benefit our entire industry for years to come.
Second, as mentioned earlier, we need additional sponsors to come aboard and help support the KO event on Monday, April 25. If you are coming to Orlando to exhibit and/or attend XPONENTIAL, please consider supporting KO at whichever level your organization is comfortable with. We have sponsorship packages starting at $500 up to $5,000. Please visit sponsor.auvsiflorida.org for more information about how your company or organization can get involved as a sponsor of KO.
And finally, we would really like to say how much we appreciate the amazing support that DroneLife has provided to us, including the opportunity to get word about KO out to the unmanned vehicle systems community. Having strong media partners like you is essential to ensuring events like KO are successful, so thank you!
Read more about AUVSI Florida Peninsula Chapter:
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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