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Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore gave a fiery talk on climate change during the annual TED conference on Wednesday. (Bret Hartman/Bret Hartman / TED)
Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore gave a fiery talk on climate change during the annual TED conference on Wednesday. (Bret Hartman/Bret Hartman / TED)

Al Gore, drone demo among highlights of TED conference in Vancouver Add to ...

For his TED talk this week, Raffaello D’Andrea wanted to include a drone demonstration – drones, after all, are his line of work; he’s an autonomous systems expert who develops quadcopters. But there was a hitch: the Vancouver Convention Centre, where the conference is held, doesn’t typically allow drones.

“They’re perceived too dangerous so they don’t have insurance for it,” TED curator Chris Anderson told reporters on Thursday.

The demo Mr. D’Andrea was planning included an intricately choreographed finale involving multiple micro-quadcopters that would fly around the theatre and over the audience. The micro-quadcopters were “pretty light,” Mr. Anderson says, so he made a decision: he indemnified the convention centre against any lawsuits.

“So please don’t sue them,” Mr. Anderson joked.

The convention centre general manager, Craig Lehto, said the centre worked closely with TED and the drone manufacturer to make it happen. “This is a very unique circumstance,” he said.

The decision made for a dazzling finale – Mr. D’Andrea and his team sent up 33 small drones that resembled a swarm of fireflies.

Indemnities aside, Mr. Anderson says the TED organization is happy with the convention centre – and Vancouver – which he says will remain home to TED’s main annual conference for the foreseeable future.

“We love it,” said Mr. Anderson. “This facility’s spectacular, the city’s welcoming, people love coming here. And the theatre that we designed has turned out to be a storming success,” he said, referring to the Douglas Fir “pop-up” theatre that is disassembled, stored and re-assembled each year for the conference.

The conference, which ends Friday, brings about 1,400 attendees paying a minimum of $8500 (U.S.) to town annually, and is the primary source of the TED talks videos available for free viewing online, which have registered about 2.8 billion views, according to Mr. Anderson.

The organization is not, however, planning another TEDActive – which had taken place simultaneously in Whistler for the past two years but did not return this year.

Highlights of this year’s TED Conference include a fiery TED talk on climate change by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore. Mr. Gore gave a TED talk a decade ago that helped bring mainstream attention to the issue. On Wednesday, he returned to the topic. He presented a stream of statistics, evidence that climate change continues to wreak havoc on the planet. But he said he is “extremely optimistic” about the future.

“We’re going to win this. We are going to prevail.”

Mr. Anderson said the talk – which should be posted online in the next week – was a hit with the TED audience.

“Gore is a phenomenon; I was really honoured that he put so much time into that ; It was specially created for TED and he nailed it,” said Mr. Anderson – adding Mr. Gore probably crammed 25 minutes of information into 20 minutes (the talks are supposed to be 18 minutes maximum).

“I heard someone say afterwards he thought that would go down as one of the best political speeches of the 21st century.

“People say strange things at TED,” he added, “but he really wowed people.”

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