Drones, long used in actual warfare, are now being deployed in political battles.
Campaign advertising gurus are using small versions of the unmanned aircraft to shoot footage of a fly-fishing candidate, scenic shots of a downtown and a marina, a pol walking near wind turbines, and other promotional images. But the relatively cheap, flexible technology has its downsides: one nearly crashed into Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, for instance.
And — as in violent conflicts — the legality of using drones for filming ads isn’t totally clear.
Veteran GOP ad-maker Fred Davis, a pioneer of using drones for campaign ads, said the camera-equipped aerial vehicles, many of which are very small, “can do things that even a helicopter can’t do, and … at an unbelievably reasonable price.”
“They can fly through an open window, they can fly inside,” Davis said. “They can fly up and down stairways. They can get really close to things — say, a church steeple or a tree. We’ve done them in factories, where they go through small openings into big rooms in factories.”
Drones have already been infiltrating other realms — Hollywood uses them, news organizations are getting in the game and even Amazon hopes to have a drone delivery service.
It’s hard to quantify how many political ads have been filmed using drones because the technique is still fairly new and its use remains limited to a relatively few firms. But because the cost of using drones has dramatically fallen, ad makers expect their use to increase in the 2016 cycle, including possibly in some presidential campaigns.
Ad makers say drones can give a more polished, cinematographic look with sweeping aerial shots that can make the TV spots stand out from the usual slash and burn of dark negative commercials. They could follow a candidate’s campaign bus down a road, take beauty shots of different places he’s visited and snap images of where he grew up.
“If I was going to do it, I would have two drones come up and fly over the top of the biggest rally of people I could put together and fly right above the guy speaking and over the top of all these people supporting me,” said Casey Phillips, co-founder of GOP firm RedPrint Strategy.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com