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Drones, Vegas’ New Toy




drone in sky 2017

Easily one of the most popular pieces of technology on crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the flying drone somehow made the leap from science fiction, to video game, to commercial availability almost overnight. Now, the tiny machines are in the hands of mad inventors, underwater drones (of which, the BIKI has attracted $192,515 in pledges), do-it-yourself kits, and both hovering and auto-follow options can be bought online.

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Marketing & Movies

For all their popularity, drones have sometimes been viewed unfavorably by the privacy and safety conscious, given that they can be bought, flown, and crashed by people with no relevant experience. For obvious reasons, rogue drone users are a bugbear of airports, military outposts, and, until recently, the city of Las Vegas, which gave the nod to a local firm, AviSight, to fly drones up, down and around the world’s favorite gaming resort in May 2017. Oddly enough, the decision to allow drones on the Strip has nothing to do with Las Vegas’ many casinos. The Strip is beneath a particularly secure type of airspace category (although it’s not as inaccessible as the one above Disney World and parts of Washington and New York) and flying drones around the MGM Grand or the Bellagio requires prior approval from the Federal Aviation Authority – 24 hours before every trip and then once again before it starts.

Casinos and similar entertainments venues on the Strip have a pre-existing use for drones – marketing and construction – so it’s perhaps a little surprising that lawmakers have resisted their use in Vegas for so long. William O’Donnell, the vice president of AviSight, also notes the value of drone-flying to the movie industry, given the popularity of films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Very Bad Things, and gambling classic Casino.

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Burrito Bomber

While not officially mandated by the casino industry, the use of drones by AviSight nevertheless complements the sector’s love of technology. Even ignoring the rapid adoption of smartphone and tablet play, a brand like Betway Online Casino recently began using streaming technology in their “live” casino games, putting a human dealer on webcam, while virtual reality gaming on devices like the Oculus Rift is rapidly gaining traction with casinos. However, while new games are a great tool for keeping existing customers on board, drones have a much more important use in acquisition and, as mentioned, marketing. For example, the noodle shop Wokker used branded drones to torment Russian office workers in 2014, flying around with advertisements for food at lunchtime. Similarly, a creepy campaign in Brazil saw headless mannequins stalk Sao Paolo buildings to advertise Black Friday offers.

It’s easy to think up ways in which casinos could make use of drones, adorning them with promotional banners to attract customers or even to deliver coupons and business cards to potential gamers elsewhere in Las Vegas. The idea of drones as an “actor”, i.e. a thing that can carry something or perform an action is a popular one, and there are plenty of examples of companies trailing drone delivery, like Amazon and YO! Sushi in London, and Darwin Aerospace’s Burrito Bomber, which, when built in 2012, did exactly what its name implies.


For the near future though, and with such heavy restrictions on flying in the area, the drone’s future in Las Vegas is likely to be in videography; specifically, filming the exterior of hotels and casinos to support online marketing. It’s a job that traditionally falls to helicopters, vehicles that not only need special clearance and trained crews but lack the agility that drones possess. They’re also much more expensive to run than drones.

aerial photography

In 2017, it’s possible to pick up a remote-controlled drone with smartphone video recording (the Force1 UDI U818A) for around $160. It might not do much for the likes of the Bellagio or Caesar’s but it’s a perfect tool for small seaside hotels or local attractions like fairgrounds. In comparison, AviSight’s Matrice 600 Pro is a $5,000 flying platform that supports the most powerful imaging equipment out there today. While casino goers are still quite a few years off having their chips delivered to their hotel room by a drone, the appearance of the tiny flying machines on the Strip are yet another example of innovation in the casino industry and a brand new way for interested parties to interact with their customers and clients.


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