Will drone-based marketing have its wings clipped?

Drones have been stirring excitement in adland as many marketers have been looking at the possibilities of working with drones.

Take for instance, Coca-Cola’s viral stunt last year(pictured): Coca-Cola partnered the Singapore Kindness Movement and dropped free cans of Coke to foreign workers, via remote controlled drones to more 2500 workers around Singapore.

For Starcom MediaVest Group, it earlier held an employee learning initiative educating staff on flying drones. SMG staff were taught the basic operations of how to fly a drone, take-off, land, navigate the skies, take high-level aerial views and create content for clients campaigns. The syllabus also covered air regulations in Singapore surrounding usage of drones.

“Apart from learning how technology plays a part through our evolution to embrace content creation into our business, drones best reflect how we are living in a time where creativity is commoditising as fast as privacy is dissolving,” said Ian Loon, head of digital leadership, Southeast Asia, Starcom MediaVest Group.

In an earlier interview with Marketing,Robert Luxton, founder and director at Aerobots, a company which offers aerial photography, videography and inspections using drones said: “Until recently, the civilian drone was a real hobby affair.  Now, several companies have grown large enough to move out of this sector and by employing clever branding and marketing along with the development of ready-to-fly drone models, they have turned drones into consumer products.”

However, organisations looking to work with them may face new hurdles by June, if new regulations that are under currently under consideration by the Ministry of Transport goes through. These are pending approval by Parliament.

The Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Bill was introduced yesterday, calling to have the Air Navigation Act and Public Order Act changed. Concerns highlighted were “public safety and security risks caused by unmanned aircraft,” according to Today.

The laws intended will outline what the drones can do, their weight and where they are allowed to fly.

For example, drone operators will require permits for commercial purposes or specialised services such as construction and surveying. Permits will be needed to discharge substances from the drone. Drones weighing more than 7kg in total weight, including fuel, payload and equipment, will also require permits to operate. Apart from flying over high security areas as outlined by the restricted areas by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, certain special events such as South-east Asian Games venues will be off limits without permits, as well as areas within 5km of an aerodome regardless of height, or above 200 feet (61m) beyond 5km of an aerodome, said the article.

Agencies have said that this comes as no surprise.

"We were in fact expecting increased tightening in coming years, so this comes as no surprise. Most of the mentioned framework was already covered in the training basics we had our staff understand and acknowledge. We continue to push our teams to take creative expression to new limits, within feasible, safe, and law-abiding boundaries," said Starcom's head, digital leadership, SE Asia, Ian Loon.

Kim Douglas, managing director of SapientNitro Singapore also said that these laws are unlikely to affect marketing activities as all productions using drones or promotions involving drones already require adherence to safety restrictions and a permit.