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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—There is lot of buzz about using drones commercially. Could restaurant owners use it as a cheaper delivery system? Could hoteliers use drone services?
The creator of FreeHotelCoupons.com, Joe Smith, shows that it is not a pipe dream, at least when it comes to hotel and other services. His firm already uses a drone to take aerial photos and videos of hotel properties from San Diego to Florida, which are used to attract more hotel guests. FreeHotelCoupons uses the aerial videos to highlight the site, while offering coupon discounts to guests.
Smith uses a small hobby drone that carries a camera on the bottom. He answers Blue MauMau's questions on the problems and advantages of using his drone.
BMM: What service do you provide to hotel owners and franchisees?
Smith: Freehotelcoupons.com provides hotels with the ability to reach a large travel audience at the critical points in their travel planning stages. From discovery, researching, decision making and purchasing, we help them reach potential guests looking for a place to spend the night. We also create hotel Video Mobile Commercials (VMC's), providing hotels with an easy way to share their information in a digital format.
BMM: How do you use drones and what kind do you use?
Smith: Back in July of this year while I was purchasing a new cell phone, the sales rep jokingly suggested that I might want to have some fun flying their new Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 quad copter that you control remotely with your smartphone or tablet. We both chuckled since I didn't think it would have much use in our business until I asked if it could be used to film video. When he responded, "Yes it can, and take a look at this video," we knew we were onto something. It was then that we starting using a drone to film aerial video footage of hotels to be used in the production of our hotel Video Mobile Commercials (VMC's).
BMM: What advantages are there in using a drone? What about cost advantages?
Smith: The cost of the drone was very economical, starting at $299. It was simple and easy to use, since you control it right on your cell phone or tablet. You are able to view your filming while controlling the drone and the video can produce in HD 720p-30fps.
The real advantage was the money and time factor we were able to save to get aerial video footage. Normally you would rent a boom or lift and move it around the property to take some photos. The drone saves time and hundreds of dollars, not to mention you are able to reach those difficult locations a lift just can't reach. We produce a VMC starting at $499, which includes a 30-60 second video/slide show and a QR code with a link to the video that can be scanned [usually by smartphones]. Another benefit that comes with having a video online is the increased SEO rankings. Since Google is giving more consideration to blended results, you have an up to 50 times better chance to be seen on the first page of the search results listings.
The only disadvantage we found is you need to film on a calm day. When the wind gets over 5 mph it can be a little tricky. We also found it necessary to have several battery packs on hand since they will only last about 10-15 minutes each flight.
The unit is very safe with a foam frame that can be added if needed. It's also really fun to fly and will bring out the kid in you. Here is the link to our first video.