Advertising is an important part of our economy. Ignoring our fears of a future sky polluted by flying advertisements, blimps and other drones can certainly put your message into the air. Scale is the key, we’ve certainly seen aerial advertising before, but how big can you get?
I know what you’re thinking, a blimp is not a drone. I think we covered that it is, actually, in the sense that a blimp with no persons on-board is an unmanned aerial vehicle, the very definition of a drone, according to the FAA.
The typical drone we see around here is not an ideal tool to put a message into the sky. More than a few could handle the task, but not very gracefully. Traditional aerial advertising has seen the use of balloons, blimps and airplanes, but these all require a hefty investment and a trained pilot, not to mention cooperation from the weather.
There are two types of drones that we’ll discuss today for aerial advertising, a typical drone and a blimp.
Earlier in 2017, Drobotron was launched, an octocopter with a near 90 inch x 10 inch circular display hanging below it. More specifically, that’s a 360 degree view wraparound full color display.
With a visible range of up to 750 feet, the only down side is the limited flight time of about ten minutes.
The entire flight package is about thirty pounds, well under the FAA maximum for a drone. Just remember, if you fly it for business, you’ll need a Part 107 remote pilot certificate.
We briefly met up with a company called Plimp at InterDrone. They have a 28 foot long unmanned blimp with a drone-style articulating propeller driven flight system. A huge machine filled with Helium then driven by electricity.
Thing is, the FAA says our machines have to be under 55 lbs to operate, they don’t exactly say how big the machine can be. At almost thirty feet long, Plimp weighs in at under fifty five pounds. Best of all, it has nearly 5 miles of effective line of sight, again conforming to FAA guidelines and making it very easy to fly a little further out.
Plimp offers a top speed of about 40 mph, battery life to push up to 20 miles and enough Helium to keep the drone airborne for a day or more. Aside form putting the Good Year Blimp out of business, I can think of many search and rescue or natural disaster applications for a drone like this.
Coming soon, but not too soon
As I’m sure you can imagine, machines like this may slowly roll out to car dealerships and sporting events as we go. Maybe you’ll see a Plimp over a farmer’s field as well, but as far as you and I flying in our backyard, may never happen.
Battery life and safety concerns are a huge deal. Plimp addresses these nicely, but it’s still the size of a moving van. Man power is also of concern. A car dealership can fly a tethered helium balloon with their logo on it all day long, no human interaction required. A drone requires a pilot at all times.
Update May 2018: We recently attended AUVSI Xponential, a largely commercial and military drone focused convention. With nearly 700 autonomous vehicle manufacturers on the show floor, we did not see a single flying advertisement focused drone. Lots of the machines could be used for putting ads in the sky, but if this convention is an indicator of future drone usage, our skies should remain advertisement free for a bit longer.
We’ll see flying advertisements soon enough, I hope you’re ready.