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Got a Drone in Your Marketing Plan?

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Sometimes, you just have to pause, stand back and admire a perfect marketing plan. And thatís exactly what Lakemaid Brewery pulled off the week leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, but Iím not sure how many people got the joke.

By now, you will have read that Lakemaid, a craft brewer in Wisconsin, followed Amazonís lead by rolling out a plan to deliver beer to ice fisherman on frozen lakes via autonomous drone. They produced this nice little video and once that got out there, the FAA woke up and grounded the operation, not that it had serious legs anyway. That particular drone has a payload of about 5 pounds or about three bottles of beer, less the packaging. †Lakemaidís Jack Supple told The Verge as much.†ďIt delivered the box with something in it. But we had to keep taking bottles out to get it off the ground,Ē Supple said.

Naturally, the brewery would have realized that (a) the drone is more like a robot bartender than a beer truck and (b) the FAA, upon hearing of the video within two minutes of a Google crawler sniffing it, would reliably shut down the operation. But this is the stuff of promotional gold and a canít-lose proposition for Lakemaid. And how great is that?

For one thing, it keeps drones in the public eye which, whether you like them sharing your airspace or not, is a good thing because theyíre here and more are coming. Second, the FAA looks a little silly cracking down on things like this and if that keeps pressure on the agency to get the rules governing UAS sorted out, so much the better. I predict youíll see more clever marketing stunts like this until it gets to be full-scale whack-a-drone. While theyíre at it, the authorities will have to deal with people shooting at these things. Thatís coming, too. (Just read the YouTube comments if you doubt it.)

Meanwhile, I have only one thing to say to Lakemaid: 27.1236N 82.4389W.

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Comments (15)

The FAA has been tasked with figuring out how to safely integrate UAV operations with traditional on-board-human-piloted ones. Good (although I have little doubt that in so doing, the agency will attempt to use human-operations-optimized techniques on machines - a truly bad idea).

They also are being tasked with coming up with mission restrictions (no "spying," etc.). Bad.

Asking the FAA to regulate what you do with your (manned or unmanned) vehicle - as opposed to how you do whatever you're doing with it - is about as appropriate and as practicable as asking Fiskers to ensure that you use their scissors only to cut fabric for making prom dresses, as opposed to stabbing people to death with them. Or like asking Canon to figure out how to ensure that no one takes "illicit" photographs with their cameras.

Do we really want the FAA making value judgments about the appropriateness of any given flight we conduct? Fly along the coastline taking pictures of autumn foliage = good; Fly along the coastline taking pictures of nude sunbathers = bad? How long until it would be Fly pipeline patrol or medevac = good; Fly somewhere for a $300 hamburger = bad? (Fuel-wasting and artery-clogging, after all.) Or Deliver disaster-relief supplies via a drone = good; Deliver beer via a drone = bad?

Maybe we should require the NHTSA to figure out a way to keep people from using their automobiles in the commission of a crime? We could get GM and Ford involved; use OnStar and other vehicle electronics to track and report suspected improper activities.

Please, God - let the FAA do safety, and let somebody else do crime-prevention. And please let nobody do "mission-appropriateness." Voyeurism already is a crime - regardless of how one accomplishes the feat.

Posted by: Thomas Yarsley | February 3, 2014 6:34 AM    Report this comment

Don't forget TSA.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | February 3, 2014 10:32 AM    Report this comment

Thomas Yarsley wrote: "Maybe we should require the NHTSA to figure out a way to keep people from using their automobiles in the commission of a crime? We could get GM and Ford involved; use OnStar and other vehicle electronics to track and report suspected improper activities."

This is brilliant. This is exactly how to communicate this issue to non-flying public. Now the nanny state comes to GA.

Posted by: A Richie | February 3, 2014 11:16 AM    Report this comment

You guys from Colorado or Washington? Geez, seems a bit of premature paranoid extrapolation about voyeurism or nanny states when all I got was the FAA was cracking down on the rule making aspect of the drones before they get it sorted out for commercial use.

Armed lunatics firing at drones? Now that's one I'll predict will happen, and they'll be caught just as fast (Gps, G-pro, neighbors, etc.) as the Google crawler caught the beer deliveries.

No one commented on the main thrust of the column, tho - who drinks beer outside in below zero weather?

Posted by: Dave Miller | February 3, 2014 11:50 AM    Report this comment

Will "banner towing" go the way of bill board advertising - stay turned"!

Posted by: Rod Beck | February 3, 2014 3:00 PM    Report this comment

Some years ago at a former FBO I used to frequent, they had a chalkboard on the wall for teaching students basic patterns, etc. In the upper corner of the chalkboard were penciled in some lat/long coordinates (this was the early Loran days). I never knew what the coordinates meant until one day someone let it slip...it was a nudist camp some 30 miles away! No wonder the avionics shop was busy installing Loran units ha ha!

Posted by: A Richie | February 3, 2014 4:50 PM    Report this comment

Quadcopters with intelligence. Watch it all and enjoy.

http://www.ted.com/talks/raffaello_d_andrea_the_astounding_athletic_power_of_quadcopters.html

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | February 3, 2014 9:41 PM    Report this comment

"Who drinks beer outside in below zero weather?"

Among imbibers I know, many are hunters and/or ice-fishers. And I exhibit my paranoia principally in Massachusetts. ;-)

Posted by: Thomas Yarsley | February 4, 2014 1:01 PM    Report this comment

Now this is news I expected to hear in the 21st century, flying robots. I like a lot of people think this drone delivery has potential and is really cool. The Amazon thing and beer delivery from the corner Sunoco? Sounds great to me and will be profitable for the operators. People behind this are smart (or hire smart people) and will get it figured out to integrate delivery drones in the NAS. I'm wondering how the FAA is going to work out things like what if a drone has to fly through the approach path of an airport, or weather minimums, maybe even require anti-collision lights for them, and so on. I agree, they are coming and probably sooner than some want to believe.

Posted by: Joshua Waters | February 4, 2014 4:15 PM    Report this comment

' And I exhibit my paranoia principally in Massachusetts. ;-)'

Even a wee-bit of paranoia is a felony here in Arizona. Enjoy that buffer of liberalism you have there, Thomas. ;) But I always appreciate your musings, however they are presented in the moment.

'Now this is news I expected to hear in the 21st century, flying robots. I like a lot of people think this drone delivery has potential and is really cool.'

I was kinda hoping for the 21st to enfold less divisiveness, fewer wars and conflicts, cleaner air, and the Cubs to win the World Series. But I'm old school, I suppose. Enjoy the toys and gadgets, though. They have their place.

Posted by: Dave Miller | February 5, 2014 11:44 AM    Report this comment

Well ... I just heard that it won't be long before ALL cars will have to have automatic braking systems on 'em and maybe even be able to drive themselves without human intervention. And, we all know that a large Global Hawk can manage to fly itself from Edwards AFB, CA to Australia autonomously. Cameras are getting smaller and the data links necessary to transmit the video collected will proliferate.

In Europe, they're getting ready to require cars to have disabling electronics aboard so that the cops don't have to chase them ... they can just disable them electronically. Maybe they could do it from a video drone, in fact, so that they can stay at the donut shop while achieving their desired end goals? Hey ... we could send the video right to the TV stations ... ala KTLA. No more need to send out squadrons of TV helicopters to video the San Diego Freeway car chases.

I'm surprised no one has "hit" upon what's happening. "Virtual flying" and real flying are getting ready to cross paths. I can hardly wait until I can send my ornithopter over to pick up a six pack (oh, yeah ... getting beer = bad!) and -- on the way over -- I can do some aerobatics from the comfort of my laptop or tablet ... or iPhone. Cool! Virtual flying + practicality in one fell swoop. The Avgas conundrum will be solved, the tree huggers will be happy, and Cessna can build the BugCatcher C-082. Maybe a C-092 for 12 packs?

Geez ... I just thought of something ... the NTSB will have to institute a new division ... the drone division. If MY drone hits YOUR drone and drops my six pack, SOMEONE will have to investigate why and write a 100 page report on it. NHTSA won't have jurisdiction. Deborah ... are ya listening? Start hiring.

Now that I think about it ... I hope no one aims their red laser pointing device in the 'eye' of a drone's camera and disables it ... 50 years in the crowbar hotel.

If the FAA's performance to date on the AOPA/EAA medical exemption petition and/or reaction to HR3708 takes two plus years to deliver ... well, nothing, I doubt if the FAA can figure out anything in any of OUR lifetimes. The FAA will have to send still more apologies to more entities while we wait for their "wisdom."

OH ... and we'll have to have standards on how to build drones so that they're 100% reliable, have been testing to the N'th degree, have type and production certification and are STC'd or TSO'd if modified. FAR23 1/2. We can't have Barney Oldflyer building his own drone in his backyard ... it might fall on someones head.

Grown men having this conversation. If it weren't so SAD it'd be funny.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | February 5, 2014 3:50 PM    Report this comment

OMG! I just remembered ... with the proliferation of Federal and FAA licensed Spaceports, we're going to have a potential conflict. What if a commercial space launch rocket hits a drone? We're going to have to have ADS-B, et sub, aboard those pesky drones that Amazon, beer drinkers et al, will be flying all over the place. And, maybe we're going to have to way to data link restricted airspace UP to the drones so they know to stay away from areas we don't want them in.

Now then, if someone invents a high powered drone that could fly above FL180, I wonder if it'll have to by on an IFR plan? Hmmm ... Since airliners hang out up there, maybe it'll have to have a transponder and TCAS?

Sooner or later, some adventurous person will fly a drone over Area51, the White House or other places they keep alien spaceships ... the USAF will have to have a way to bring those critters down. But THEN, if something hazardous is aboard the drone, we'll have to get the EPA involved. Can you imagine my beer got spilled all over the Area 51 runway when I was looking for little green guys while I was bringing my beer home? Why it'd become an EPA superfund site!

Lastly, the States will have to require drone operators to have accidental payload and airframe insurance. There's a whole new area for some entrepreneur to make a bunch of jingle. Then, we'll have to figure out if we have NO FAULT or other types of drone insurance.

YOU started this, Paul ... with your tongue in cheek ... and I just had the best laugh I've had in a long time. BTW. Lakemaid is brewed at the Stevens Point Brewery, WI ... they bottle craft beers for others there and it's a great place to imbibe without entering the National Airspace System. :-) Anyone going to AirVenture oughta stop off and give the place a taste test.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | February 5, 2014 4:54 PM    Report this comment

Hey Larry' This looks like a scrip/skit right out of "Saturday Night Live"! Have you considered writing comedy - seriously? Contact: Lorne Michaels, C/O NBC Television - New York, NY! NOTE: The good news - the drone qualifies as "Light Sport" - I think! "OK, OK, the FAA has a NEW category - VERY Light Sport"!

Posted by: Rod Beck | February 5, 2014 7:53 PM    Report this comment

That would be "Miller Lite Sport"... (boom-swish) :-)

Posted by: A Richie | February 6, 2014 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Hmmm, it will never fly...

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | February 6, 2014 4:19 PM    Report this comment

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