How to Use Drones at Events

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It’s difficult to appreciate the potential applications of drones at events until you see them in action. Still in their early stages of development, drones show great promise to surprise and delight event attendees. For example, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2015, Ford Motor Co. used drones to deliver toy trucks to attendees who had registered for them. The company notified participants via their event app that items were ready for pickup in a designated drone landing zone. The strategy was an excellent buzz builder for the show, picking up news media coverage.

At other events, such as the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, drones are used by exhibitors and sponsors to shoot video, drop promotional materials, and fly advertising banners.

When you use drones smartly and take the necessary safety precautions, you can bring something to events that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere, creating a buzz that sets you apart from the competition. In this post, we detail how to use drones at events so that you can make your next conference or seminar an event that people will be talking about for months to come.

Maximizing the Potential of Drones

Drones allow you to capture amazing, sweeping footage (which would otherwise be captured from a boom camera) from spots that you’d never be able to access. Flying overhead as conference attendees wander around to vendor booths, and zooming in close to capture detailed action of product demonstrations adds a unique perspective to an event, particularly when you can share this footage with event attendees at the event itself or shortly afterward.

Drones also allow event planners to be in multiple locations simultaneously. For large events, this advantage is key for capturing the numerous activities that may be taking place at any given time. While you may not have talked to a vendor in great detail or may not have made it to every seminar, you’ll still have video footage that will be instrumental for planning future events.

Taking the Proper Precautions

Operating a small drone during an industry conference sounds simple enough, but it includes a lot of factors that most people don’t consider ahead of time. Here are a few thoughts and tips.

  • Hire a qualified, insured pilot. Currently, there is no official certification or licensure for piloting a drone, especially at an indoor event. However, you want to hire someone who operates drones on a regular basis, has coverage for liability purposes, and who comes highly recommended by tech experts. Once you’ve hired your pilot, communicate your expectations and limitations for the event clearly.
  • Consider the design of and parameters for the event. Confirm where the drone will be able to fly during the event. For example, many convention centers only allow drone use on expo floors and not in common areas or directly over the heads of attendees. Take care that there is adequate clearance for a drone to operate amid signage and other display items.
  • Choose the times for operating the drone carefully. Drone usage should enhance an event, not distract attendees. For example, flying a drone around on a trade floor is great; flying a drone during keynote sessions should be avoided unless the drone is actually integral to the presentation.

Plan accordingly for battery life. Most quadcopters have a maximum battery life of 30 minutes. Drones equipped with GPS can be programmed to return to a home base when the battery is down to five percent so that they don’t crash.

Finally, keep in mind that it’s better to be safe than sorry. The last thing that you want is for an event that you’ve been planning for months to get shut down unexpectedly because a drone gets out of control and someone is worried about a lawsuit. Do your research and make a detailed plan for running the drone, which includes creating a backup plan in the event that you can’t use the drone as intended.

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing bduffy@onesmoothstone.com

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