Marketing Savvy: Send in the Drones

Apr 07, 2016 Louisa Beckett, Turnkey Communications & PR, Inc.

Send in the Drones

Perhaps the sexiest new way to market a yacht listing is to shoot a video of the vessel in action from a remote-controlled drone.

“When you show the boat running in the water, in her own element, it strikes a cord with people,” said Sean Wilkes, director of video production for Denison Yacht Sales. “It’s changing the game for us.” 

Wilkes originally got the idea of shooting aerial yacht videos with a drone from high-end real estate listings. After thoroughly researching the field, he was instrumental in helping Denison Yacht Sales to purchase its own drone about a year and a half ago. The unit, which came complete with high-resolution video camera that shoots at 4K resolution, along with a gimbal to steady it in the air, cost $1,500 back in 2014. Today, he reported, you probably could purchase a similar drone for $1,000 but adds that accessories such as spare batteries ($150 apiece) and video editing software could pump up the price substantially.

“Our drone connects to at least 15 satellites during flight, providing a perfect GPS lock,” Wilkes said. “I can pilot it 20 feet from the boat while the boat is running 20 knots. I haven’t seen anybody else do that; we are setting the standard.”

He cautions, however, that it took him 18 months to develop this skill set and he would never attempt a shoot like that if the conditions weren’t perfect. “It’s safety first,” he said. Today, the growing number of drones in the hands of recreational users with little training is having the effect of making the skies overhead crowded and dangerous. “The hobbyists are making people like me [who use drones professionally] look bad,” Wilkes said.

The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) has announced that it is working on updating its rules for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), which include drones, and expects to issue its new regulations shortly. In the meantime, however, Wilkes sums up the main rules currently in force for drone usage:

    1. You can’t fly them above 400 feet.

    2. You can’t fly them within 5 miles of an airport.

    3. You can’t fly them at night.

    4. The pilot must maintain line of sight from his or her position on the ground to the drone at all times. You can’t fly the drone over the horizon or behind an obstruction.

    5. You can’t fly over a populated area.

Breaking these rules can endanger others and subject a drone operator to a hefty fine.

Denison Yachts Sales has earned a commercial exemption from the FAA’s UAS regulations, but still must follow all the FAA safety rules.  “We are very, very concerned with safety,” Wilkes said. “Any mistakes or accidents could ruin it for us and for all brokers.”