Featured NewsExposAZDroneFest Film festival & Expo


28 November 2022

By Corey Schubert, USDroneFest Board of Directors

The fourth-annual AZDroneFest Film Festival & UAS Expo recently featured some of the world’s best aerial films, FPV drone racing, and exhibitors showcasing the latest in commercial drone applications. The free Drone Expo and Family Fun event took place on October 22, 2022, at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.

Kids and adults alike enjoyed flight demonstrations of drones of all sizes and spoke to a wide variety of exhibitors from across the Southwest. Some of the best films made with drones competed across eight categories, and winning films for each category were screened and announced throughout the day. This year, 12 films were selected from more than 30 entries from seven different countries.

The Director’s Choice Award was also given to a filmmaker who shows great potential as a way of encouraging and acknowledging an up-and-coming talent.

Filmmakers ranged from professional cinematographers to video enthusiasts. With a wide variety of categories, pilots of all levels can participate in the film festival and compete for the well-recognized AZDroneFest Trophy.

The judging panel is made of aerial cinematographers from around the world, with a wide range of expertise. Some of them have been judging the films since the launch of AZDroneFest in 2019.

“The difference between a good film and a great film is often in the very small details,” says Chris Tinard, director of AzDroneFest. “Our judges are all dedicated and passionate about aerial cinematography, and every year they have the very hard job of evaluating each film, looking for those small details that make the difference.”

AZDroneFest is an International film festival and UAS Expo designed to educate, promote, cultivate and celebrate the art of aerial cinematography in Arizona. The film festival is dedicated to recognizing the world’s best in aerial cinematography in multiple categories.

Attached to the film festival is an education expo with industry panel discussions, keynote speakers, and workshops for commercial drone pilots, drone enthusiasts, and aerial cinematographers to attend for an affordable fee.

“We believe there are great benefits in bringing together drone pilots from all different applications. From hobbyists, drone racers, cinematographers and commercial pilots, we can all learn something from each other and be inspired by the many ways drones are being used,” says Tinard. “We wanted to not only showcase the best in aerial cinematography but also create a family-friendly environment where kids and adults alike could experience flying drones, and see how drones are being used in different aspects of everyday life. We’re also excited about the many ways this event allows us to celebrate local and worldwide talent in aerial cinematography, and to hopefully inspire the next generation of drone pilots.”

“I was really impressed with the entire event,” said festival attendee Tim Daugherty. “I was thrilled to have an entry nominated, and it was genuinely inspiring to see the other films. Many of them were fantastic.”

AZDroneFest 2022 Highlights

Drone demos were provided by some of the best aerial cinematographers in the state, including Flying Robot, ReelBros, and Rekt Drones. The Casa Grande Police Department, and Regional Fire & Rescue Department also demonstrated how they use drones to help save lives.

Other exhibitors included Spright, the drone division of aerial medical service provider Air Methods, who had an impressive long-distance medical delivery drone on display. GreenDrone AZ and the Arizona Geographic Information Council brought in their drones, including fixed-wing drones used to gather data of large areas. Aerial Armored demonstrated some of its software capability in drone traffic monitoring. A handful of pilots from the new Major League Drone Racing were also on hand to display their FPV flying skills. Pilot Institute was the delight of the expo with their robot dog.

“The event was great as usual, family friendly and it’s only going to get bigger and better,” said attendee Chris Tangey. “The AZDroneFest team are very much pros and make sure they cover a variety of drone subjects, not just film/photography.”

This year, AZDroneFest was hosted by the Grand Canyon University's Department of Digital Film. Winners included:

Best of Arizona

Through the Season by Chris and Jessica Foncannon. This category honors the best submission of a single film or compilation either featuring Arizona, or from an Arizona filmmaker.

Best Narrative

FDNY 9/11 Rescue 4 Appreciation Video by Tyler Healey.

Best Landscape

A Different Perspective by Marcus Möller.

Best Showreel

Hope by Jun Pyo Hong.

Best FPV

Old Town Scottsdale FPV One Take by Tyler Healey.

Best First Responders

24/7 by Robert Smith. This award honors a single film or compilation of clips used in any first responders' project, such as training or inspection.

Best Photography

Infinite by Maria Davis.

Best New Pilot

Awakening by Enrique Alexander Gracia Herrera. This award celebrates a talented new up-and-coming drone pilot with no more than one year of flying and filming experience.

Best Industrial

Drone Marketing Pros—ICI—Cooper’s Hawk Restaurants and Winery by Todd and Jennette Hofmann. This award highlights a single film or compilation of clips used in construction, inspection or other industrial projects.

All winning films can be viewed on AZDroneFest.com

Keynote speaker Mignonne Hollis from Aerospace Arizona talked about the future of drones and the economic impact of the drone industry in Arizona. Breakout sessions included a focus on the ways drones are used in everyday life. Experts from GreenDrone AZ discussed how drones help protect our environment, and speakers from Pilot Institute and Aerial Armor highlighted FAA regulations and safety. Pros from Rekt Drones, Flying Robot, and Major League Drone Racing introduced the different types of FPV drones and how they can be used to race and film unique footage.

Representatives from Reel Bros, the Arizona Production Association, and professional pilot Jeremiah Davis, gave tips on how to work as a drone pilot on large film sets and discussed the film industry's future in Arizona. With new state incentives for the film industry, the state of Arizona is positioning itself to attract more large productions out of Hollywood, increasing the demand of qualified film professionals. AZDroneFest will continue to partner with professional associations and experts to provide information and networking opportunities for pilots to expand their skill sets. A panel of first responders gave a presentation on the ways drones are being used in emergency situations.

The event’s organizers are already considering ways to further enhance the experience for attendees at next year’s event, and are working in partnership with Aerospace Arizona to continue to bring high-quality content and bring together the many different aspects of the drone industry. In the future, AZDroneFest would like to partner with organizations to award a scholarship for a student interested in professional filming with drones, or potentially establishing a mentoring program.

The 2023 AZDroneFest will take place in October 2023 at Grand Canyon University. Call for entries will open in June of 2023, and is a great opportunity for content creators to showcase their work to an international audience.

AZDroneFest is presented by USDroneFest, Inc. a not for profit 501(c)3 organization.

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