Hands-on activities, exhibits, demos, and more during this celebration of autonomous technology

The Indiana IoT (Internet of Things) Lab, along with AUVSI (Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) and Pierce Aerospace, hosted its first Indiana Festival of Autonomy last weekend. The festival highlighted Indiana’s leadership and role as a regional hub and national crossroads in the advancement of autonomy and IoT development.

“Whether it is assisting first responders with search and rescue, helping farmers more efficiently spray their crops, or autonomously delivering goods and services, unmanned and autonomous systems are capable of saving time, saving money, and, most importantly, saving lives,” said CTO of Pierce Aerospace and Indiana AUVSI Chapter President, Gary Bullock. “However, the benefits of this technology do not stop there; this technology has incredible potential to stimulate the economy and create jobs in Indiana.”


Day one focused on rolling up the sleeves and getting into the gears of technology, business, and networks of people driving the future. Workshops for AUVSI members and guests were led by industry experts such as the FBI, Crane, Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, Indiana State University, and Purdue at Westgate. 

Evening panels explored the confluence of technologies and culture surrounding autonomy and the impact it has on our lives. Topics included “Emerging Technology & Mobility Leaders” with Verizon Infrastructure, IUPUI, Cummins, BraunAbility, and Dannar, and the “Application and Use Case Development” panel featured Beck’s Hybrids, Rabbit Tractor, Allied Automation Robotics, Universal Robots, and The Indiana National Guard.

The evening networking event featured beverages provided by local brewery Four Day Ray, dinner from Nameless Catering, and live music with Matthew Corken.

Saturday, AUGUST 17

Day two was open to the public for hands-on activities technology demonstrations from over 20 exhibitors which included robotics, drones, self-driving vehicles, and other unmanned machinery. Much of the day was focused on educating young residents.

“A big part of our mission overall is to stimulate creativity and interest in the next generation,” Indiana IoT Lab founder John Wechsler said. “If a young student sees an autonomous vehicle or a drone, that could spark potential interest in that field. Our hope is they continue to chase innovation as they go off to college or down a career path.”

Outdoor exhibits featured:

The “Drone Zone” included cutting-edge drone technology by Frontier Geospatial, Pierce Aerospace, Indiana State University, DroneDek, and Top Shot Aerial. The Indiana National Guard was also on hand to educate about night vision, tactical wear, and cyber operations.

As attendees made their way inside the lab, a shift in the scale of equipment was evident. “One goal for the event was for a student to see the University and Professional demos outside, then make their way inside to mimic what they just witnessed on a relatable platform,” said Indiana IoT Lab executive director Jason Pennington. Programmable robots from Rover Code, 1st Maker Space, and IndianaFIRST were readily available for kids to engage in hands-on activities with LEGOs, Dash and Dot, Frisbees, and other educational devices. A smaller scale “Drone Cage” allowed both kids and adults to fly drones through moving obstacles, and Shining 3D provided human 3D renderings as a new twist on the caricature portrait.

Fishers resident and Vice Principal of Fishers High School Steve Loser attended the event with his 6-year-old son. “I thought we would spend an hour walking around and seeing demonstrations. We spent 4 hours as every vendor put the technology in my son’s hands, let him play, and more importantly, let him ask questions,” said Loser. “It was some of the best hands-on instruction I’ve seen. He is still talking about it.”

Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness was on-hand with his son as well. He later tweeted: “This is one of the coolest events I have seen in @FishersIN in a while! @Indiana_IoT labs festival of autonomy was unbelievable. Linc got to drive a robot and fly a drone. Our city continues to embrace innovation.”

The lab and partners are already thinking about next year. “We hope it’ll grow into a template we can replicate,” according to Wechsler. “Our overarching vision is to make technology and innovation a dinner-table discussion in Fishers. When youth is engaged, it’s amazing what they can come up with.”


What exhibitors had to say:

Jason and his team have some great excitement and a unique momentum going at the IOT lab there in Fishers. Dannar was very excited to have been part of the day and see the forward-thinking participants of both vendors and attendees. The highlight was Mayor Scott Fadness and his son operating our Mobile Power Station by remote control in the parking lot. Clearly the City of Fishers has a bright future in all things tech, and we are proud to have been a part of the event.

Scott Crepeau, North American Sales Director

It’s great to see how the resources the IoT lab has been putting behind entrepreneurs has grown the hardware-tech ecosystem in Indiana over the past few years.

Zack James, Founder
Rabbit Tractors

It was an honor to participate in the first annual Indiana Festival of Autonomy this weekend! What an awesome experience to meet some of Indiana’s finest innovators and entrepreneurs. Truly amazing what cutting edge technology is coming right out of our backyard! If you haven’t seen what the Indiana IoT Lab is doing, check it out!

Andrew Jones, Sales Development Manager
Universal Robots

The Festival of Autonomy was a truly unique experience! There were many kids who experimented with our rover, and many conversations we had with industry professionals that were invaluable.

Shaun Greene
Rover Code