SXSW 2018: Developing drones and rovers to enhance our cities

SXSW 2018 is now a wrap and it was all it promised to be. This year, the Arm Ecosystem Team and our friends at NXP had a great time cohosting Capital Factory’s "Future of Tech Lounge" event during SXSW Interactive. 

Between March 9th and March 14th, over 5,000 people came together at Capital Factory to check out the latest technology ideas, meet the energetic and innovative startup businesses and the people who are bringing these ideas to life. Just the kind of people we at Arm and NXP like to get to know, help, and hang out with; people and ideas that change the world. 

At this year's SXSW, we were specifically looking at the development of drones and rovers. We’ve all seen stories and humorous YouTube videos of some crazy applications of this kind of technology, but the message we brought to Austin and SXSW is that real business and industrial uses of drones and rovers is here.

The future of drones and rovers

During our five days at the Future of Tech Lounge, each of us from NXP and Arm found ourselves engaged in very diverse conversations about how drones are ready to help lives. Not just in our cities, but in rural areas and the far reaches of the globe. 

I met people interested in delivering medicines and critical supplies during first response of disasters. These were first responders fresh from the hurricane disasters in Puerto Rico, where roads, power and water would be months away. I met with people that want to provide repeatable micro-detailed air quality monitoring drone flights to track plumes resulting from industrial and chemical accidents. Others were talking about using drones and rovers in “return to normalcy” programs for communities dealing with the aftermath of war, whilst others were discussing using drones to fly over areas to detect landmines left behind and using rovers to help remove them.  

NXP were at the event to show how to make these ideas a reality. Iain Galloway from NXP showed their open source drone/rover reference design. This hardware and software takes an entrepreneur’s business mobile, whether it needs to fly, swim, or roll, to deliver goods/people, stream video or other sensor data to a customers. This platform is easy to use; you don’t have to hire a drone software engineer or be one. Iain told visitors that NXP’s drones would be ready to buy pre-built (less than $300, without battery), or available to download as a free reference that developers could customize via the web within a couple months. NXP have also introduced HoverGames, a series of hands-on embedded hardware and coding challenges where participants can use the new HoverGames drone development hardware kit to help build solutions to these challenges.

Ready for Robots: Developing Drones and Rovers to Enhance Our Cities panel

Panel: Ready for Robots: Developing Drones and Rovers to Enhance Our Cities

On the Sunday, we hosted a panel “Ready for Robots: Developing Drones and Rovers to Enhance Our Cities” promoting further discussion. Our moderator,’s Adam Benzion and panelists Daniel Agar (Dronecode), Janelle Curtis (AUVSI/RoboNation), Greta Knappenberger (SmartCities/MicroSoft-iSoftStone) and Jinger Zeng (Auterion) did a great job leading a lively interactive discussion among the standing room only crowd, imagining what it will be like to have robot citizens among us in our everyday lives. 

I want to thank our friends at Capital Factory, NXP, and all our panelists that made hosting Capital Factory’s SXSW Startup Crawl and Tech Lounge such a success. We had a great time meeting all the visitors and hearing about hundreds of use cases and business service concepts. These are people and ideas poised to change the world. We hope visitors went home inspired by the future, and confident that their ideas can be acted upon today.

Watch our event video to hear more from the innovators.