CONVENE: How Drones Are Changing the Meetings Industry
by Hunter R. Slaton
That buzzing sound overhead in the exhibit hall might just be the HVAC system or the lights or a thousand other things you’d expect to find in the arena-like atmosphere of the modern show floor. But it might also be something unexpected: a drone — a compact, remote-controlled, audio- and video-equipped flying vehicle that is a kinder, gentler descendant of the unmanned military aircraft the United States has employed in its global war against terrorism. Increasingly, the meetings industry is turning its attention toward how drones might be incorporated into live events.
While the footage and photos that drones can produce are impressive, the technology isn’t without its areas of contention — from FAA oversight to the safety and privacy of attendees. Don’t let that stop you, though. The following primer will bring you up to speed on everything from trade shows devoted to drones to the true-believer shutterbugs who want to take “aerial selfies” of your attendees, and more.
Drones go by many names, depending on whom you talk to and in what context. Those who work closely with the devices, and who want to avoid the political implications of the word “drone” — which can conjure images of high-altitude terrorist strikes and spying — tend to go with “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or UAVs. Others refer to them, cutely, as “hover cams” or “quadcopters,” since they’re little more than remote-controlled model helicopters equipped with cameras.
In terms of meetings and events, we’re mostly talking about some form of hover cam. Indeed, these drones are about as far away from those used by the U.S. military as a toy car is from a real one. But the technology is relatively new, and people can still have knee-jerk reactions. “It’s an emotionally charged thing,” said Eric Eden, vice president of marketing for Cvent, which used a video-camera–equipped drone at a recent meeting.