Drone usage is soaring. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that more than 420,000 U.S. commercial drones will be in use by 2021, up from 42,000 in 2016.
Like real estate, the hospitality industry has been one of the early adopters of commercial drone usage—particularly for aerial photography. With drones, hotels and resorts can now create impressive video content to lure prospective guests to their properties. They can also use the drone-generated images to develop aerial site maps to help existing guests and staff members navigate sprawling grounds.
Another key application is surveillance. Since drones make it possible to see things in 3D rather than in a 2D frame, security teams can use them to monitor hotel perimeters, parking lots and outdoor recreation venues more carefully—and cost efficiently. This is definitely more economical than hiring a full-time security crew to sit in front of surveillance cameras 24/7.
Drone usage challenges
If your customers in the hospitality industry are considering employing drones, here are some factors they should consider:
Data theft—Industrial drones have simple computing architecture and are not highly secure. Standard debug tools can be used to circumvent the software fairly easily. What’s more, most of the data that a drone collects is unencrypted. Once it’s hacked, the drone can provide an entryway into the company’s wireless network and proprietary information.
Liability due to potential collisions or mishaps—Loss of control, due to hacking, system failure or frequency interference, can result in a collision with another aircraft—or physical harm to a hotel guest or employee. Any hotel or resort that uses a drone should carry liability insurance.
Shortage of qualified operators—Commercial drone usage is still in its infancy, so right now there aren’t enough trained and FAA- and TSA-certified operators to meet the demand. Government regulation, too, is still in flux, with regulators having difficulty agreeing on tracking requirements for different types and sizes of drone aircraft.
Is drone usage an option for your customers?
Answering that question requires weighing the advantages against the costs and potential risks. Hotels and resorts need to be realistic in their expectations about what they can accomplish—and ask themselves if it’s really worth the investment. The exciting new world of drone technology is alluring, to be sure, and it’s easy to be swayed by the “coolness” factor, especially in an industry that depends so much on image.