Eye on the sky
It won't have escaped your attention that the sales of drones have been rising steadily over the last few years, and it's now possible to buy a sophisticated flying camera platform, no bigger than a hardback book, all for the price of a mid-range laptop. Commercial drones are larger and cost more, but provide more flight controls, longer flight times and more detailed imagery. Drones are being used worldwide for everything from delivering coffee to search and rescue. Live organs have successfully been delivered by drone, and the police have been using them as a cost-effective alternative to helicopters in certain roles.
Drones are going to be a dominant tool in the next decade. Technological progress assures me that drones will become smaller, quieter and more capable as time goes on, fulfilling an ever wider range of roles from event photography to surveying and mapping.
For now, drones are saving time, money and lives - and although most of the public awareness is driven by drone video footage, with its whole new perspective on outdoor events, the greatest benefit comes from having a "flying eye".
Drones are now often the first choice for inspections in difficult to reach places, typically at height, as well as being able to provide instantaneous aerial photography and live CCTV feeds for traffic and crowd management. Drones have been used to create aerial light shows, provide moving illumination, and even deliver coffee, the sky is no longer the limit.
For event venues, It's vitally important to retain the services of experienced, licenced drone operator companies, who will not only have all the relevant insurances and safety precautions in place, but will be able to advise you on the regulatory requirements for flying drones at your events. Not all drone operators are the same, and may have very different specialisms. Some will be exclusively photo- and cinematographic experts, able to capture difficult tracking shots of moving objects and produce flawlessly composed footage for use in PR, marketing and promotion. Other drone operators will specialise in industrial and architectural inspection, for example, whilst others may have specially equipped drones for thermal and near infrared imaging, useful for search and rescue operations, thermal efficiency building surveys, locating fires and so on.
No outdoor venue wants visitors flying their own drones over an event without all the proper safeguards in place. It's a recipe for disaster from a safety perspective, as even a small drone can cause appalling injuries. Venue policy needs to be very clear to the visiting public on that front.
With the advent of cheaper, pocketable drones, controlled from a mobile phone only a year or two away, venues need to think about how they are going to convince audiences to leave their drones at home, and further down the line, how they are going to deal with unauthorised drones over their events. A national drone registration scheme goes live in November, and the legislation and regulations governing both consumer operated and commercially operated drones are likely to change quickly. Watch this space!