Tuesday 28 February 2017 10:17 am

Droning on: How drones are transforming marketing

From publicity stunts to epic and cost-effective aerial photography, marketers are getting increasingly creative with how they use drone technology.


Prior to the rise in camera-equipped drones in recent years aerial photography was restricted to those who could afford helicopter support. All that has changed.


As City A.M. reported last year, the drone market is estimated to be worth $127.3bn a year worldwide, of which $8.8bn is accounted for in the media and entertainment sector.


From creating stunning shots in hard-to-reach places – such as stunt rider Danny Macaskill’s epic cycle up the Cuillin Ridge in Skye – to new angles on a dawning London sky for a Nescafé promotion, when it comes to creativity please excuse the pun but the sky’s the limit.


Amazon tapped into the marketability of drones early. The online retail giant has long been an advocate for drone-based delivery, which could transform our airways. Whether or not this concept takes off remains to be seen, but in the meantime it’s got us talking about both Amazon and drones.


To hire a drone pilot can cost anywhere from £350 to upwards of £1,000 a day, plus production costs. This makes drone work accessible as a marketing tactic for many brands.


Let’s look at drone technology in action.


One of 2016’s most innovative marketing campaigns was ‘Fleetlights’ by Direct Line Group. This prototype service was developed to demonstrate how innovation can be used to prevent problems before they happen.


Fleetlights reimagined streetlights as a mobile drone force working as a team to provide lighting support to drivers and pedestrians in areas without permanent streetlights. The drones follow the user according to GPS and provide light when and where they need it.


Mark Evans, director of marketing at Direct Line Group, explains: “In our case, using drones was the ideal way to highlight issues such as darkness and road danger in connection to many different people and situations.”

Direct Line's Fleetlights in action

Direct Line's Fleetlights in action (credit: Direct Line Group)

Direct Line has made its Fleetlights software open source so other organisations, such as search and rescue teams, can use and develop the technology as they wish.


Evans believes people will be working more widely with drones going forward, although many marketers may consider drones out of reach as their use is highly regulated.


“We worked with a team of drone experts in a controlled environment over privately owned land in order to be able to launch the prototype service,” Evans told me.


Incidents of drone-related near misses with commercial aircraft is a concern for the Civil Aviation Authority, whose guidance on drones can be found here.


For brands with the vision and the budget, and who can work with qualified, expert drone camera operators in safe and legal environments, the possibilities of drone technology will be limited only by their imagination.