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160 Attend Drone Entrepreneurship Conference in "Silicon Beach"

Palmer Drone Entrepreneurship Conference 2015

Last Thursday, September 24, 2015, over 160 drone entrepreneurs, industry professionals, and Pepperdine School of Law alumni and students convened at Cross Campus in West Los Angeles for the 2015 Drone Entrepreneurship Conference. Hosted by Pepperdine Law's Geoffrey H. Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law, the conference featured expert panels of speakers from startups, venture capital firms, and leading law firms. The panels examined current and future prospects in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry, a sector expected to account for $82.1 billion in job creation and economic growth over the next ten years.

Palmer Drone Entrepreneurship Conference 2015
Palmer Drone Entrepreneurship Conference 2015

A Unique Location and Mission

The conference took place at Cross Campus, a cutting-edge, collaborative co-working environment and shared office space in the heart of Santa Monica's "Silicon Beach." Silicon Beach, home to as many as 500 start-ups, incubators, and business accelerators, has been identified as one of the top three start-up ecosystems in the world. Pepperdine University's Malibu and West Los Angeles campuses are located minutes from the heart of the region.

"We wanted to increase the visibility and presence of the Palmer Center and Pepperdine School of Law to the Silicon Beach community of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and lawyers and provide an opportunity for our students to connect and network with this community," says David Feingold, executive director of the Palmer Center. "The Drone Entrepreneurship Conference, organized and emceed by Law Associate Professor Gregory S. McNeal, was a great success judging from a huge turnout and a terrific set of speakers and panelists in a very unique Santa Monica venue."

Professor McNeal, whose scholarly work and appearances before Congress and in the media have led to national recognition in the fields of drone regulation and national security, noted the practical goals underlying the event.

"For students to learn about entrepreneurship, they need to be out of the classroom mixing with entrepreneurs," says McNeal. "That's why it was so critical for us to bring this event and our talent to Santa Monica — the home of Silicon Beach."

Palmer Drone Entrepreneurship Conference 2015
Palmer Drone Entrepreneurship Conference 2015

High-Flying Expertise

Panelists at the conference included the following:

Professor Gregory S. McNeal (Associate Professor of Law, Pepperdine School of Law) - Professor McNeal is an expert on drones and topics related to security, technology and crime. He is a nationally recognized commentator for Forbes and a frequent keynote speaker about technology, law and policy. He has recently co-launched an app, AirMap, to enable safe, legal, hassle-free drone flying.

Amir Blachman (Managing Director, Space Angels Network) - Space Angels Network is a professionally managed, member-led, international angel network, providing capital, business and technical guidance and industry intelligence for early-stage aerospace companies.

Dan Burton (CEO & Founder, DroneBase) - DroneBase provides on-demand drone services from trained operators. Businesses receive aerial imagery, video, maps and analysis delivered through collaborative software.

Van Espahbodi (Partner, Co-Founder, Starburst Aerospace Accelerator) - Van Espahbodi is co-founder and partner at Starburst Accelerator, where he brings together operators, suppliers, inventors, and venture investors to accelerate innovation in the aerospace industry.

Nair Flores (Director of Legal, IP and Policy, Skycatch) - Ms. Flores is an engineer-turned-lawyer whose past experience includes roles ranging from Corporate Development to Legal at Dropbox, Facebook and Yahoo. Among other accomplishments she was Facebook's first patent attorney. She heads all legal, IP, and policy efforts at Skycatch, a platform for capturing data at scale using small autonomous drones. (Ms. Flores graduated from Pepperdine Law in 2004.)

Simon Nielsen (CEO, CTRL.ME Robotics) - Simon Saito Nielsen is a leading expert on current and future drone technology. He is the CEO and Founder of Ctrl Me Robotics, Inc., a robotics company specializing in autonomous multirotor drone technology and servicing some of the world's largest brands.

Brendan Schulman (VP of Policy and Legal Affairs, DJI) - Brendan Schulman, drone policy expert, recently joined DJI, the world leader in innovative aerial technology, as its Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs. Mr. Schulman, often known as "The Drone Lawyer," is one of the country's most prominent advocates for clear and reasonable civilian drone regulations.

Matthew Sweeney (CEO & Co-Founder, Flirtey) - Flirtey develops autonomous drones capable of delivering packages to a GPS location. Flirtey recently made history with the first FAA approved drone delivery in the U.S., delivering 24 packages of urgent medical supplies in Wise Virginia.

Palmer Drone Entrepreneurship Conference 2015
Palmer Drone Entrepreneurship Conference 2015

Real-World Entrepreneurship

"Classroom learning must be supplemented with experiences where students understand the challenges that businesses face and that lawyers can help to solve," says McNeal. "That's a key objective of the Palmer Center and the law school, and I think we achieved that with this event."

The Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law offers an innovative, multidisciplinary fellowship program. The Palmer Center prepares students to fulfill the overlapping roles of lawyer and entrepreneur through a challenging, exciting, and unique supplement to the traditional law school curriculum. Students who complete the 12-unit program are awarded a Palmer Center Certificate in Law and Entrepreneurship upon graduation from the law school.

"The Palmer Center is designed to be a resource to the Southern California entrepreneurial community, bringing fresh, relevant content to entrepreneurs in the places where they work," says Pepperdine Law Associate Professor Robert Anderson IV, faculty director of the Palmer Center. "The Drone Entrepreneurship conference was a great example of our commitment to exploring cutting-edge topics where law intersects with the most vibrant areas of entrepreneurial activity.

Palmer Drone Entrepreneurship Conference 2015
Palmer Drone Entrepreneurship Conference 2015

About Pepperdine School of Law

Pepperdine School of Law, founded in 1964 and located in Malibu, California, is committed to serving students by preparing them for lives of purpose, service, and leadership in a rapidly changing legal environment. Pepperdine Law provides highly qualified students with a superior legal education through a combination of rigorous academic programs, meaningful interaction with faculty, and extensive clinical and experiential opportunities. The school prepares students for positions as counselors, advocates, and judges; as business persons; and as researchers, teachers, and philosophers of the law. On the web: https://law.pepperdine.edu


Tom Inkel

Director of Communications

Pepperdine School of Law