If Your Event's Drone Takes Down My Plane...

I don't get it. Our industry is pushing, in recent articles from FreemanXP and BizBash and even, with a bit of caution, Meetings Today, for the use of drones for meetings and events. Event Marketer mentions the pitfalls of using drones at events, but there's really more about the great opportunity of using them.

I don't get why we need drones for our events. Is it because they are the latest “cool thing” and we have to be cool because style trumps content?

Living in a no-drone-fly area [not within 15 miles of DCA], I'm fortunate to not have to worry about being hit by a drone or having one carrying a weapon shoot at me or even a drone bringing down a medical helicopter. But the number of incidents of drones almost bringing down planes grows daily and one of us is likely to be in one of those planes—if we haven't already been.

California is calling for stricter laws. And this links to the Drone Law Journal, a resource I suggest all event companies, hotels and event planners keep handy.

You know, it's funny, I'd yet to see a clause in a hotel or venue proposal—like those about not using pyrotechnics—about not using drones. Because I'd not seen one, I asked a number of industry attorneys, those who work on the group side and those on the planner side.

Steve Rudner*, a well-known hospitality industry lawyer, of Rudner Law Offices, wrote this in an email to me: "Yes, [drone clauses are] already in use at various high-end resorts: 'Photography: The use of drones for any purpose, including filming and photography for any purpose (commercial, personal, editorial, etc.) at the Resort is strictly prohibited.'"

Steve, in giving permission to quote him said, "You may quote the clause, and you may quote me as saying the clause is already in use at several destination resorts. We are trying to preserve the privacy of our other guests, including celebrities with unique privacy concerns, and to preserve the tranquil environment sought by our guests and groups."

To my inquiry regarding whether individuals could use drones at properties, he wrote: "I don’t know if the clause has yet made its way into individual room agreements. It is in group contracts. I do not yet know of any case in which a hotel has moved to enforce the clause, but I am confident we will have one soon."

As this goes live, I'm waiting to hear from a few hotel companies to whom I've asked the question about drones and their use or prohibition. I've also reached out to DMAI, HSMAI, HFTP, and AH&LA to see what they can tell me. As we go live, HSMAI says they have not discussed this at all. AH&LA is checking and I'm waiting to hear from DMAI.

With thanks to Tanya Venegas, MBA, MHM, CHIA, I learned the following:

"Frank Wolfe, CAE, CEO of HFTP, wrote a column for Hotel Management Magazine in which he discussed the use of drones in the lodging industry. This article provides an overview of his thoughts on the subject. ‘The hospitality drone: friend, fad or foe?.’

"As for additional research, I have not seen any academic research pertaining to the safety of drones in the hospitality industry. Most of the information I have seen pertains to the benefits of utilizing drones to assist with marketing. ‘Drones: Coming Soon to a Hotel Near You.’"

Further research is being conducted including talking with general managers. Ken Daugherty, GM at Skamania Lodge, said they had used drones to get better photos of their property and "We have not created this policy but we likely need to. This has been an occasional issue and we have allowed them very little access to flying them on property. Typically we ask them to not use them on property and direct them to an area close by that is more suited."

There's also the issue of privacy and whether "Peeping Tom" laws would apply to the use of drones, and safety abound.

Is it going to take an event that didn't know about the laws surrounding D.C., for example, or other laws restricting drone use that will cause a plane to crash or other accident to happen before drones are outlawed for anything but military use? Is the potential liability worth it?

I don’t know. I've been an early adopter of technology. This is one I don't see as anything but a cool toy with the potential of creating havoc for many.

Are you in the “drones, YAY!” or “drones, no way” group? Or are you a fence-sitter who thinks it must be OK if everyone is doing it and you'll use them if no one tells you no?

P.S. And then there's the issue of lasers and their use from the rooftops or windows of airport hotels. Is that on the radar of anyone but airlines, airports and the FAA?

* Disclaimer: I have testified in cases as an expert witness for Steve Rudner's current firm and in the past for firms for which he's worked.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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