The hospitality drone: friend, fad or foe?

For those who read my articles, you know that I love gadgets. If a new gadget can be adopted into the hospitality industry, I love it even more. So let me introduce to you the latest gadget to enter the hospitality industry: the drone.

The word "drone" does not exactly sound like something intelligent; however, most are exceptionally sophisticated. A drone is basically a pilotless flying robot that runs off software and embedded systems using GPS. They can fly by themselves or via remote control. They have many uses, but, until recently, were used for things like weather reporting, search-and-rescue, military applications and even traffic monitoring.

Today, drones have application in the hospitality industry. For instance, they can be used for shooting videos, which is useful for promoting a property via aerial views.

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Within the past year, drones have proven even more useful in the hospitality industry as innovative companies have tapped into them to improve operations. Singapore-based Infinium Robotics developed the Infinium-Serve, touted as “the only fully autonomous and smart flying robotics servers in restaurants and F&B outlets.” Among other things, it comes with a special intelligence that avoids collisions. It’s already being used commercially, most recently at an event to serve Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

A more recent application of drones in restaurants was a holiday promotion by TGI Fridays called “Mobile Mistletoe.” In December, a TGI Fridays in Brooklyn used a commercially available drone that carried mistletoe hovering over restaurant patrons. If the couple kissed, they were awarded special gift cards.

Like most new technology, drones are going to enter the industry with some distinct advantages. For now, they are new and can generate buzz for the industry and for your enterprise. They can also increase serving space by flying close to the ceiling; they don’t get tired; and they never ask for a raise. 

However, they can also come with some disadvantages. For example, according to online news reports, the drone at the TGI Fridays in question slightly injured a photographer covering the event. Off-the-shelf drones can be difficult to fly, quite expensive and still require someone to pilot them.

For now, it is too early to tell if drones will make a major impact on the industry. Drones in hospitality and also robotics are going to be addressed at HITEC 2015. Perhaps visitors will get to experience them first hand—and can make their own decision as to their value, or disvalue.

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