Visitors of all ages try their hand at flying a drone at EPFL

© 2018 EPFL / Alain Herzog

© 2018 EPFL / Alain Herzog

EPFL held its second annual Drone Days this past weekend. From Friday to Sunday, nearly 5,000 visitors were given the chance to pilot various types of drones. The weekend was capped off by a spectacular drone race that drew over 60 competitors from around the world and sent three Swiss pilots to the winners’ podium.

EPFL’s three-day dronefest - featuring races, a robotics exhibition, conferences, demos and workshops - came to an end on Sunday under a sunny sky. Like last year, close to 5,000 people visited the campus to learn all about drones: from research to racing, from pastime to practical applications in industry and the humanitarian sphere.

This year’s focus was on hands-on experience. Visitors of all ages were able to try piloting a drone, from small racing models with special immersive goggles to larger craft used for aerial views. A wide range of workshops and simulators and a series of competitions gave visitors the chance to test their piloting skills - and even win a drone of their own.

The EPFL Drone Racing Cup was held too, bringing together over 60 pilots from around the world for a dramatic speed race sanctioned by the World Air Sports Federation. At the end of the grueling competition, three Swiss pilots climbed the podium on Sunday: Moritz Werffeli (aka Lazy) took top honors, followed by Michael Isler (Swift) and Alexandre Coquoz (Alexandre FPV). A night race on an LED-lit course delighted the crowds on Saturday evening; that race was broadcast over the internet, drawing several thousand spectators.

Visitors also discovered the depth and breadth of the local drone ecosystem, a true technology hub devoted to developing drones and integrating them in the airspace. An interactive exhibition highlighted the most innovative startups and stalwart companies alike, along with the Federal Office of Civil Aviation and Presence Switzerland. These are some of the main movers and shakers in a sector in which Switzerland is a real pioneer.

High-flying speakers

On Friday and Saturday, EPFL Drone Days played host to the FAI International Drone Conference and Expo, where specialists from across the globe discussed the latest advances in the areas of racing, safety and innovation.

EPFL Drone Days is run by EPFL in partnership with the World Air Sports Federation, the Swiss Rotor Sports Association and the EPFL Aéropoly association. It aims to become a landmark event in the drone world for both specialists and the general public.