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The drone debate comes to PR

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The buzzing noise above your head may sound like a giant-sized mosquito, but it’s not. Instead this “mosquito” is a person-operated, high-flying helicopter-looking device packing a high-res video camera.

Yes, I’ve heard about drones in the media as used by the military. And yes, I’ve heard about Amazon using drones to deliver packages. But my first real in-person experience was when my 10-year-old asked for one. We obliged by getting him his own cheap version to fly around our yard. When he uploaded the footage to our computer, my jaw hit the ground. Do you realize the potential drones have to disrupt our lives in good ways and bad?

The footage was a little grainy, but I could make out details near and far – our entire neighborhood, the water tower miles in the distance…I couldn’t believe the expanse of viewing and details we had at our fingertips. We had the drone capturing us standing in the road looking up at it, and there was my neighbors’ backyard. Then I started to think. It might just be that drones will change the world of PR.

The bad

Consider this. Your local community news sources can’t afford their own helicopter for breaking news, but they sure as heck can afford a high-powered drone. Now they have access to footage of that plant fire or that chemical spill like they’ve never had before. With a drone, live streaming footage gives viewers a whole new perspective. Consider a candidate running for office who might not be conducting his or herself in a manner conducive to an elected official, and a drone has just captured footage he or she assumed was private.

The good

To be fair, there is a lot of potential good for drones, too, as we PR practitioners have the ability to provide a new perspective to situations that we couldn’t before. Marketing a stadium? Think of the footage you could get! Cause marketing for the climate? Another way to capture footage that tugs at the heartstrings with startling imagery. Community-wide event? Showcase the event from the air to see how many people attended and the bird’s-eye view of what took place. The list is endless in ways drones and footage can be used in a positive way.

Bottom line

Get ready for drones to impact the world of PR. Until laws and legislation are in place, we are in the Wild West of these data collecting flying machines.

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