Advertising is everywhere: on posters (paper or digital), in magazines, on TV, on the Internet, in your smartphone, and even soon in your connected and autonomous cars. When is the next step, the sky? Will we ever see giant billboards floating in the clouds … even in space? This scenario seems very "Science fictionnesque", reminiscent of works like Blade Runner or Back to the Future, but it is actually quite realistic.
Because while the virtual and terrestrial worlds are starting to be saturated by advertising, startups are working very seriously on the "after", in a new space, a new playground to invest – with projects "orbital display", from "event satellites", or even advertising drones.
Drones, balloons and "Clouds" advertising
Let's start with the atmospheric sky, or troposphere. Among the companies working on flying commercials, the Swiss Aerotain is currently completing the design of a 3-meter balloon, inflated with helium (therefore less dangerous than a hydrogen-filled airship, or a quadcopter) and topped with small propellers, the Skye Aero. This customizable drone (we can give it the airs of big creepy eye, spaceship, robot …) should be able to be used to film a crowd, to take selfies, but also to distribute goodies … and to spread advertisements in the tunes, but closer to passersby – since the Skye Aero should be able to move very easily, "floating" from top to bottom, and from left to right.
For its part, Cloudvertise designs "advertising clouds" foam filled with helium, and the Drone Aviary project, the company's "prospective design" Superflux, imagine already a flying and spherical advertising drone, straight out of Minority Report, the "Madison".
of the "event satellites"
While Aerotain and Cloudvertise focus on the directly visible sky, others see further, and hope to send their ads … beyond the stratosphere. While the Japanese start-up ALE plans to send in the space of small satellites to trigger on order, by 2020, rains of shooting stars, the Russian company StartRocket board on "the orbital display". His idea is to deploy a swarm of satellites in orbit "Illuminate" in the sky, closer to the stars – forming sorts of "sponsored constellations" in the colors of Mcdo or Coca Cola, for example.
StarRocket's cubic small satellites, which are expected to be in the low orbit (between 400 and 2000 kilometers above sea level), will be able, StarRocket promises, to display advertisements, illuminated logos, event invitations, and more. even emergency messages. A space version of aerial airmail, in short – except that here, ads can be visible from anywhere on Earth.
Faced with this "new type of media" imagined by StarRocket, astronomers are worried. Like all drones that respect each other, the flying pubs of Aérotrain et compagnie can already disrupt the airspace. But event satellites could sow a real mess in space, colliding with other devices, among others. While the CEO of StarRocket admits that "tracking satellites and controlling their movements will pose serious challenges", John Crassidis, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Buffalo, says the increase in the number of satellites should clearly "increase the risk of collision". Because Earth's orbit, where StarRocket would like to send its satellites, currently houses space stations (like the ISS), as well as hundreds and hundreds of other satellites (telecom, remote sensing …) in service. In addition, John Crassidis fears that these advertising gear "become, eventually, space debris", polluting a little more space and disrupting the operations of scientists from NASA and ESA (European Space Agency).
Finally, astronomers, but also environmental scientists, fear the light pollution that would be generated by such spatial pubs – and that would disrupt nocturnal animals, while making it impossible to observe a sky totally. "Virgin". That is why, moreover, Vlad Sitnikov plans to make his bright ads visible only for 6 minutes, in populated areas. It should also, it promises, be possible to momentarily disable its satellites, so as not to "hide something big".
But for the founder of StarRocket, who does not say how his satellites should be launched by 2020 (by a rocket, surely, but which one?), Advertising in space is only following the logical course of things. And critics aiming at his project would actually "Like" those who touched the publicity when she appeared on television 60 years ago. For the moment, no law opposes it (except a US law dated October 2000), but it remains to be seen whether this kind of project, technically feasible, will be authorized by the international community and its regulators.