Looking For Drones In All The Wrong Places

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 2.36.26 PMBy Christian Kaiser

As the prices for drones fall and their availability to the average consumer increases, drones are becoming more common place in our society. However, this increasing availability also increases the chance for injury and raises questions about the wisdom in using drones in nonessential business functions. There are increasing reports of individuals flying drones in airport airspace, sparking fears of terrorism, and instances where drones have been flown close to skyscrapers in large cities. Amazon even wants to start using drones to deliver products. Therefore, it at least seems reasonable that a person could see a drone while out in public; I myself have seen one flying around the Seattle waterfront.

Despite their growing ubiquity, drones can still be a surprising sight – like hovering above their table at a TGI Friday’s. That’s right, this Christmas Season a TGI Friday’s in New York City used drones to fly their “Mobile Mistletoe” over unsuspecting patrons to entice them to kiss each other.

Unfortunately, the drone dangling the mistletoe lost control and crashed into a patron. “It literally chipped off a tip of my nose,” said the injured patron. The drone’s operator blamed the crash on the reporter covering the story that day. The injured patron was unconvinced, saying, “He is the one controlling it – he needs to be more careful.” A spokesperson for TGI Friday’s insisted that the drones were safe, saying that “customers will stay clear of the whirling, five-inch blades.” The drone’s operator dismissed the risks, saying, “If people get hurt, they’re going to come regardless. People get hurt in airplanes, they still fly.”

Despite TGI Friday’s nonchalant attitude towards the safety of its guests, the potential for injury raises questions about the wisdom of using drones as a sort of marketing gimmick for businesses. In an environment like a restaurant, where there are many people in close proximity, the risk of injury is incredibly high. Restaurant owners should think long and hard about using a drones and they should train their employees accordingly. Even then, however, the risks still could be too great.

Nevertheless, there are probably many safe and productive ways that businesses can use drones. For example, a car dealership could fly a drone over its lot to locate cars for customers. Or maybe a warehouse store could use a drone to pick up customers’ orders and bring them to the checkout. However drones are used in business, risks remain and businesses would do well to thoughtfully consider them before jumping on the drone bandwagon.

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