Greg Agvent and Drones

Greg Agvent, senior director of CNN AIR, speaks about the use of drones in journalism at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016.

This Oct. 20 and 21, the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute (NMI) will be hosting its inaugural Georgia Drone Summit, an event which looks to bring together hundreds of professional and amateur practitioners of drone technology for across the southeast.

The summit will be hosted at The Classic Center. Event organizers are in the process of finalizing programming, as they plan for more than 20 panels to be hosted over the two-day period, three occurring simultaneously at any given time. They will additionally host three keynote speakers, whom coordinators are also in the process of finalizing.

In addition to the NMI and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication sponsors of the event include CNN AIR, the Weather Channel, Turner Entertainment and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA).

The summit has its origins just under a year ago, when CNN AIR's Senior Director Greg Agvent came to the NMI. On Oct. 12, 2016, Agvent gave a talk on the proliferation of drone technology in journalism and applications of said technology in the field.

According to NMI lecturer John Weatherford and Grady Dean Charles Davis, the idea of a drone summit came from conversations about the need for such an event between Agvent and NMI faculty, and event planning began soon after.

“We kind of up with this idea of hosting a drone summit as a time for everyone in the industry to come together, share best practices, form connections, and we thought the New Media Institute and Grady College would be great organizations to facilitate that meeting,” Weatherford said.

Dean Davis said he believes the structure and mission of the New Media Institute makes it well suited to host such an event, describing the summit as “an example of the NMI at work.”

“We wanted to clearly carve out a role as a convener, a college that brings people together to learn from each other,” Davis said.

Also involved in the planning of this event is Event Coordinator Leah Moss, a graduate student pursuing her masters in Emerging Media. Though drones are not a direct focus of her studies as a masters student, Moss said she believes that drones have grown into a media phenomenon that cannot be ignored.

“I think drones have just evolved so much recently that they’re becoming powerful business tools for just any industry,” Moss said.

This interdisciplinary nature of drones is a major focus of the summit that event organizers look to highlight through the variety of panels and presenters. Weatherford referred to agriculture, forestry, journalism, marketing, real estate, surveying, tourism and emergency response as a list of potential fields included in the conference.

“What you find is people are using them for such a dizzying array of things that nobody really categorizes themselves in that way,” Davis said.

The coming days and weeks will be integral to drone summit planning. According to Moss, event organizers will be confirming panelists and keynote speakers in the coming days.

Registration for students and faculty will open in early August. The summit’s new website, where prospective attendees can view updates, went live this week, and applications for what the event organizers are referring to as Show and Share will be going up shortly as well. Show and Share will be a showcase of drone work and projects submitted by attendees presented at the event alongside the panels and keynotes.

Of the the event, Davis said it is an exciting opportunity for the NMI to be taking on a regional and national role in planning this sort of gathering for practitioners of drone technology.

“We’ve never done anything this ambitious, this is by far the most ambitious event we’ve put together,” Davis said.

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