6 Rules for Working with Drones


If you look into the sky and see something flying around that you can’t identify, it's likely not from outer space but from a far more local origin: a drone aircraft. Once the terrain of military missions and über-geeky hobbyists, working with drones is happening for a variety of innovative purposes including personalized delivery, product sampling, live streamed videography, and aerial displays, to name a few.

But there are risks, and drones can be unpredictable —even with experienced “pilots” at the helm. Like many technologies, they can have negative effects if used carelessly or too close to participants. That said, as long as they are used conscientiously, they can add a unique and memorable experience to branded events and activations. Here’s a short list of brands that are doing drone activations right, and how they were used safely and effectively.

1. Make Them Specatacular, But Keep Them At A Distance

In November 2016, Disney World premiered its “Starbright Holidays” show, an aerial display of 300 drones that position themselves in the air to form an enormous floating 3D christmas tree that slowly rotates to music. The entire show takes place over a lake, with audiences viewing from a safe distance, far from curious spectators that may be tempted to get too close to the drones’ rotating blades.

2. Use Them For Viral Stories That Highlight Your Brand, Not Mishaps

Intel in 2015 broke the Guinness World Record for the Most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) airborne simultaneously with its Drone 100, a light show created at an airfield in Germany that featured 100 drones and a live orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth below. If accidents occur, they can quickly attract the wrong type of viral activity. Intel’s applications of safety precautions assured that the attention is the positive kind. The Drone 100 video premiered at CES and has since earned more than 500,000 views—and zero reports of accidents.

3. Leave It To The Professionals

Unsuccessful or disastrous drone activations treat the drones as toys for attendees to play with. Rather than deploying drones as an engagement strategy, use them as an entertainment tactic like Mountain Dew did with its sponsorship of a drone racing event called Day of Drones. Rather than allowing attendees to race and potentially crash the drones, Mountain Dew projected realtime POV camera displays of the racers, giving marketers an opportunity to connect with the sport while leaving the flying to the pros.

4. If They're Close, Keep Them Contained

If an activation requires close-quarters or indoor interaction with drones, using a drone cage can make sure it is done safely. At CES 2016, Intel incorporated a 22-foot diameter drones “cage” into its booth at the Consumer Electronics Show. The drones used the brand’s RealSense technology, giving attendees a thrilling (yet safe) perspective on how the drones and the technology work. Other smaller brands used drone cages as well to allow hands-on interaction with the devices, but prevent any potentially disastrous results from amatuer flyers

5. Collect Content With Them, But Be Respectful Of Privacy

With the help of an experienced pilot, drones can serve as excellent aerial photographers, capable of filming or snapping footage you’d never get otherwise. Bud Light used them at their epic Whatever, USA, program on Catalina Island to stream live footage of the many concert and event activities for the weekend. Because all the attendees at the event had agreed to Bud Light’s terms of terms, they could be assured that audiences were aware they were being filmed.

6. Find Out The Rules And Follow Them

The FAA has rules and regulations specifically for business users that state, among several restrictions, that the pilot must be certified and the drone must be vetted by the TSA. Do yourself a favor and hire a professional on this one, like Expert Drones, which sells drones and offers training and drones for hire.

Keep these 6 tips in mind when working with drones and your next drone-centered activity can take flight and avoid potentially disastrous common mistakes.

Posted by Jamie Barlow | Request as a Speaker

Devoted creative servant and quiet sage of technology. Inspired by nature and motivated by mediocrity. Digital team lead @sparksmarketing.