Join us for a new series exploring the future just above us.

Created and curated by swissnex Boston,  AERIAL FUTURES: THE DRONE FRONTIER will imagine the changes coming to our lives through the increasing adoption and implementation of professional drone technology. Drones hover on the horizon of a rapidly developing technological landscape, allowing for new and imaginative applications of AI, flight technology, 3D imaging, and other burgeoning fields. These machines have an increasingly large presence in our anticipated future, bringing both incredible opportunities and new challenges. Switzerland, in particular, has embraced drones and created an ecosystem for the technology to develop. Together with leading experts from Switzerland and all over the world, we’ll address the changes these machines and their associated technologies will bring to our global society.

Subject areas Upcoming events Past events Join the conversation What we’re reading

The subjects- drones and beyond.

The flight technology

Spherical Drone (Source: 3D Print)

The bio-inspired “Flying Fox” drone (FESTO)

(Wyss Institute at Harvard University)


Maneuverability. Precision. Power.

Drones are making use of the latest emerging developments in aerial engineering and design, allowing for safer operations in turbulent, highly populated, or otherwise sensitive areas. Many engineers are focused on making drone flight quieter, enabling researchers to capture detailed aural data from the unexplored world.  From bio-inspired drones that replicate the flight patterns of bats and bees to powerful “disaster drones”, capable of stable flight in conditions too dangerous for human piloting, drones are getting lighter, faster,  stronger, and more efficient.

The payload

Rescue drone prototype (Project Ryptide)

Bricklaying drone (factor-tech)

Vahana, a single-passenger “urban mobility” drone (Vahana)


Transportation. Delivery. Speed.

With drone delivery systems approved for testing, our lives are about to be directly affected by drone payload abilities. The possibilities reach far beyond your packages – already in the works are drone human transportation systems, drone-powered construction, and even first response mechanisms- with drones carrying time-sensitive medical supplies to patients in need.  The drone payload makes the application possibilities for this technology virtually endless. Our future will likely see more drones carrying agricultural supplies, land surveillance and mapping systems, toxin detectors, and more.

Uses- Imagined and unimagined

(Plan Bee at work)

(Verity Studios)

Humanitarian drone demo (WeRobotics)


Bio-tech. Art. Infrastructure. Beyond.

Could drones replace bees in our ecosystem as populations dwindle? Could they make it possible to bring infrastructure and utilities to previously inaccessible areas? Will drones have a significant impact on the entertainment industry and live performance? Will drones revolutionize what is possible in the humanitarian sector? As technology evolves, these are just a few of the imaginative applications coming out of the drone industry.

Ethics and regulation

Public surveillance drones (Security Magazine)

Consumer DSLR Camera Drone (

Drone Swarms

Artist rendering: drone swarms


Trust. Safety. Security.

As with all technological juggernauts, drones bring with them concerns over policy and regulation to protect personal and public interest. The excitement of autonomous drones also elicits caution and skepticism, forcing us to confront the ability of these machines to make decisions and respect our privacy. Public pressure is mounting for air traffic controllers, technology manufacturers, and policymakers to come together to anticipate the guidelines that must be developed to avoid misuse of drones and appropriately place liability for the technology.

Upcoming events

More events coming Fall 2018!

Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to receive announcements of upcoming AERIAL FUTURES: THE DRONE FRONTIER events. We’re in talks with partners now and planning several private and public opportunities to move the drone conversation forward.

If you’re interested in partnering with us for future events, please contact Jonas at swissnexboston dot org.

Previous events

Drone Swarms in Art – SXSW 2018

Artists from the Zurich-based Verity Studios presented the advances they are making in bringing drone swarm technology to the world of art and performance. The panel from the world’s first Drone Costume Designer, Léa Pereyre, and Verity Studios Creative Director Bill Keays, surprised the packed audience with dazzling videos of drone swarms. As described in an op-ed published about the event in swissinfo, this was a totally new application of drone technology for most in the crowd and it left many of them amazed at the capabilities of the studio.

Experts Meeting: Code of Conduct on Humanitarian Drones

This gathering of thoughtleaders from the humanitarian and tech sectors focused on the “UAV Code of Conduct”. The development of protocols and guidelines to inform the safe, responsible and effective use of drones in disaster zones, started in earnest in 2014 through the work of the Humanitarian UAV Network. swissnex Boston, WeRobotics, and MIT Solve curated a conversation yesterday on the latest developments around the Code of Conduct and specific guidelines, particularly those on conflict sensitivity and the draft guidelines around the use of humanitarian cargo drones.

Experts Meeting: Aerial AI and Big Data in Humanitarian Action

We convened innovators from across the globe to discuss Aerial Artificial Intelligence in order to take stock of the very latest developments, opportunities and challenges in the application of AI, machine learning and computer vision to automatically analyze aerial imagery with respect to features of direct interest to the international aid and development community.

Humanitarian Drones: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Opening with a keynote, Dr. Patrick Meier (WeRobotics) provided the crowd with a frank, first-hand overview of the humanitarian drone space since Typhoon Haiyan — a Category 5 Cyclone that devastated the Philippines in 2013. His talk focused on the most pressing current and future challenges vis-a-vis the responsible, coordinated and effective use of drones in humanitarian action. These include regulations, codes of conduct, complex emergencies, localization, turf wars, artificial intelligence and more. Patrick spoke directly from his first-hand operational experience in coordinating drone teams after major disasters and from the first-hand experience of WeRobotics and their global network Flying Labs. Following Patrick’s keynote, he was joined for a panel discussion with researcher Faine Greenwood (Harvard Humanitarian Initiative) and Jake Porway (founder of DataKind), moderated by Lily Bui, a PhD student in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.



#DroneFrontier – Join the conversation on twitter

Click here to see the latest updates from the #DroneFrontier!

What we’re reading

Take a look at what the swissnex Boston team is reading about the #DroneFrontier

Cargo Drones in Humanitarian Context – Meeting Summary (FSD)

With funding from DG ECHO, FSD is implementing an initiative on Drones in Humanitarian Action in collaboration with CartONG, Zoï Environment Network and the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators)[1]. Discussions among the partners and participants led to a meeting focusing on cargo drone applications in humanitarian contexts co-organized and hosted by the University of Sheffield on 20-21 June 2016. The meeting brought together the principle stakeholders interested in the use of cargo drones for the delivery of essential humanitarian payloads. The purpose of this meeting was to advance the effective use of this emerging technology in humanitarian efforts actively, responsibly and effectively. This document summarizes the presentations and main discussion items of this meeting.

Big Day for Drones as the US Endorses Tests for Package Delivery and More (CNET)

It’s a good day for drone companies trying to make their way into an airspace that’s crowded with regulations, safety concerns, social difficulties and other obstacles.

US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced 10 test projects that will bring the unmanned aircraft into the skies. That means faster approval for experiments that could have drones sending medical supplies like blood and defibrillators, inspecting industrial sites from the air and even transporting people by air.