Drones can be useful, but also dreadful
Drones can be useful, but also dreadful
29 AUGUST 2016 7:18 AM

This week I’m droning on about drones. Yes, they have exciting uses for hoteliers, but care needs to be taken in relation to so many aspects about this relatively new but increasingly popular technology.

History is littered with dreadful ideas that nonetheless come to be because some demand or noise exists, and so does some profit potential.

Many come to a hotel near you.

Drones are silly things. At my local electronics retailer, the entire front window is filled with a display of these aerial menaces.

One recently crashed into the building next to where I live. It looked rather pathetic smashed at the base of a wall, little slivers of crumbled plastic scattered willy-nilly. On top of that, one of my hobbies since I was 9 years old is birding—that is, birdwatching—and drones, just like very tall glass buildings, add another perilous obstacle for my avian friends.

The use of mobile phones on planes is another example of a dreadful idea that nonetheless will eventually reach 100% blanket saturation, if it hasn’t already (I have not been on a plane for a month or so now).

This is not all bah-humbug.

It is impossible to argue that their use in such a scenario will not one day potentially save a life or avert a disaster. A drone, for example, might one day deliver lifesaving drugs to a remote location.

There are many other reasons, I am sure, why drones will have good uses, and this no doubt would be true of other initiatives I probably bemoan.

So let’s consider how they can be turned profitable while ensuring safety and privacy.

Many “dreadful” ideas are sold on the notion that they provide convenience, and guests and hoteliers understandably like convenience and ease when the whole idea of a hotel stay is to provide relaxation and calm.

Wild skies
Hoteliers, choose your drone carefully.

Consider these questions. How can hoteliers limit drones around their property? If a guest in Room 50 wants a takeout delivery delivered by a drone, can a hotelier say no? Would the GM even know hot chicken wings were whizzing through the skies towards them? Can the hotel add a fee for such deliveries? What would the difference be in this situation than the age-old practice of corkage fees?

Organizations increasingly understand that the use of drones requires constant vigilance.

Washington, D.C.-based National League of Cities released a report this month titled “Cities and Drones” and suggested cities needed to stipulate legislation that specifies:

  • Using land use and zoning powers to designate when and where drones may take off, land and operate, as well as any operational limitations or criteria; and
  • creating an ordinance that punishes operators for operating an unmanned aircraft in a manner that recklessly endangers persons or property while considering appropriate enforcement infrastructure.

Aeronautical magazine “Aerospace” also reported this month that “researchers looked at 150 reported (drone crashes) between around 2006 and 2016 and found that 64% of incidents were because of technical problems. In most cases, they found that broken communication links were to blame.”

Graham Wild, from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, said drone use is still in its formative stage.

“We’re still in this weird place between wanting to experiment fully with drones in every space imaginable, but also being wary about what they can do,” Wild said. “That means we’re going to keep finding ways that drones can be dangerous. It just means that it’s another step toward full drone takeover.”

Again, not altogether bah-humbug.

One fantastic way of using a drone is to take aerial video and still photographs of a hotel as a selling point to potential customers. This, several hoteliers have told me, is of interest to them, or they have already used drones to that effect. Just please, don’t do this during bird migration seasons.

It’s just as critical that hoteliers research what drone to buy, where and how it can be used and what the law says for a hotel in relation to guests or third parties using this technology.

In the U.K., there are rules that specify where drones can be flown and who can fly them, as the short video on this website shows.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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