May 29, 2024 - News

Drone-flown aerial ads expected along Miami beaches

People at the beach, looking at a flying billboard.

A rendering of the Sustainable Skylines drone towing a banner advertisement. Credit: Courtesy of Sustainable Skylines

Drones towing aerial advertisements will soon begin flying over Miami's beaches, competing for airspace with traditional banner planes.

Why it matters: Miami-based Sustainable Skylines says its hybrid-electric drones are quieter, safer and more eco-friendly than gas-powered planes.

  • They will also fly lower to bring ads closer to the public, though founder and CEO Jacob Stonecipher says it shouldn't bother beachgoers.

Driving the news: The company is the first drone-based banner hauler to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, he tells Axios.

  • He is aiming to launch the drone service in mid- to late July along Miami Beach.
  • The company is in talks with local officials and the FAA to find a site where the drones can take off and land, he says.

What they're saying: Stonecipher, who moved to Miami from New York after working in venture capital research, says he wants to "displace antique planes with sustainable solutions."

The lower flight paths — about 400 feet up compared to 500 feet for banner planes — are a "marginal difference," he says.

  • "I think it's going to be similar as to where we're flying, it's just going to be more readable."
  • He acknowledges there may be some pushback from the public, but says he created the company for the "right reasons" — such as protecting the environment and reducing noise pollution.

How it works: Each drone will be operated by a pilot from a mobile command vehicle parked nearby with the help of two visual observers and a safety officer.

  • The pilot must have a visual line of sight to the drone along its four-mile loop.
  • The drones, which are about 5.5 feet in diameter and weigh just under 100 pounds, will be towing 800-square-foot banner ads.
  • To start, the company will use two drones in Miami Beach, but may add more.

What's next: The company plans to expand to Fort Lauderdale and Tampa by the end of the year, Stonecipher says.

  • "We hope to scale this across Florida."
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