Drones and Sharks – Free Big Idea #2

Last week’s post got shared way beyond our expectations (thanks for that), which means it’s time to squander our momentum by scaling our ambitions way, way back.

Not really. But we do want to show that not every cause campaign has to be on a multimillion dollar, planet-altering scale to be interesting.

It just has to be smart.

For your consideration: a ridiculously simple, cheap, and so-obvious-we-have-to-assume-someone’s-already-doing-it-without-getting-credit-for-it idea for DJI, the largest manufacturer of consumer quad copter drones in the world.

First let’s talk about drones.

DJI Phantom Drones

If all you knew about drones came from the popular media, you’d think the entire industry was held afloat by fascists and creepy guys with trench coats and restraining orders.

What doesn’t get reported is all the good that drones are doing right now.

The press narrative about mass-market drones manages to stoke alarmism in equal amounts from both ends of the political spectrum, privacy advocates and government haters alike. Add to that the slowness of the FAA in deciding what’s an OK commercial use of drones and what’s not (see if you can even begin to make sense of their guidelines here https://www.faa.gov/uas/faq/#qn4 ), and you have an artificially stagnant category.

What doesn’t get reported is all the good that drones are doing right now. But considering the biggest drone-related PR stories so far have been things like wide-spectrum crop analysis and wind turbine inspection, that’s not entirely surprising. Crop monitoring is hardly a large enough good to overcome the undeniable terror of being watched from the sky.

What the drone market needs is to unite people over an enemy everyone can agree on.

badass great white sharkSharks.

Nothing produces more outsized fear as compared to its actual gross carnage output than a shark. Perfect opportunity for a smart brand to step up, do a lot of good for a little money, and be a hero.

shark attacks on local beachesOur idea: DJI picks a beach in shark heavy waters, maybe in the Carolinas or Northeast Florida, and brings it under their watchful, constant protection.

They donate four Phantom 3 drones (two in the regular flight rotation, two emergency backups) plus a couple dozen backup batteries and chargers to a single beach, ensuring that (with a flying time of 25 minutes per battery) one drone is in a stable hover over the water with an eye on the entire beach for every hour of daylight.

They’ll also need to put a little effort into some shark-specific image recognition. The drone’s camera will upload continuously to a server running real-time image analysis to spot shark shapes. The server will then send alert texts with flagged images to an active lifeguard’s mobile phone, who can then shut down the beach at a moment’s notice.

guy racing a sharkIf this were an actual paying client exploration, we’d do a full-scale naming study for this, and land on something catchy, domain-available, and trademark free. But since this is a free idea, we’ll call it the first thing I think of. Which is SharkScan.

Ok, meh. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

While I was waiting on Bo to proofread this, I sketched up a quick logo for SharkScan, too. It’s horrible and you can’t see it.

Anyway, so you walk up to a beach, and a sign there has a nice DJI logo and reassuringly declares that This Beach is Protected By SharkScan. Think how great that would make you feel. I don’t even worry about sharks at beaches, but I’d still feel, like, three-mai-tai-level placid if I saw that sign.

Great. Sell it. Just be sure to keep giving it away, too.

Let’s go ahead and admit that this could easily prove to be as much of a potential revenue stream as a strict charitable endeavor. And we’re OK with that, as long as DJI commits (and scales up) their charity component as this effort grows. They should begin by establishing, for instance, an endowment for victims of shark attacks (at non-shark-scan beaches, obv) to help offset medical expenses, and the endowment should grow as the program grows. And it will grow. Once it’s proven to work, every tourism-dependent beach in the world will want the SharkScan package. Great. Sell it. Just be sure to keep giving it away, too. The point isn’t to turn coastal municipalities into a new drone revenue stream. The point is even bigger: to let the halo effect of doing good rub off on the entire category, to start to shift attitudes in the press, the public, and (perhaps most importantly) the FAA.

This is the kind of self-interested charity we want to see more of. Charity that sells is charity that changes the world. No 501(c)3 on the planet, no matter how great their fundraiser dinners are, could ever hope to wipe out shark attacks planet-wide once and for all. But a single profit-minded drone manufacturer looking for a great PR opportunity? Absolutely they could. And they damn well should.

Consider this idea now yours, DJI. Or any drone company that wants to run with it. Happy shark scanning. (If you want a better name than that – and yes, you want a better name than that – we know some guys that would be happy to help.)

Come back next week for something more, I dunno, heartwarming? Unless you’re uncomfortable with feminine hygiene conversations, in which case, get over it and come back anyway.