First drones were used for military mission (e.g. for spying, bombing), but now it seems to me that they are gaining momentum in civil life as well. Last year Golf Channel tested drones in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
I think it is clear what are the benefits of drones versus helicopters. The Telegraph used drones at Gleneagles on this year's Ryder Cup to give better coverage about the game. Drones can go where helicopters can't, both in terms of proximity and cost.
Today, men of the street can buy a consumer drone outfitted with 4 battery-powered motors and a gyro-stabilized video camera for about $1,000 (a basic version without camera can be around $300 and 350 GBP). You can even control such drones with your smartphone or tablet with a GPS-based system.
From the price you can see that these drones are able to compete with rangefinders (e.g. with Bushnell 2014 Tour V3 that costs cca. $400).
So the question is when can golfers start to use them instead of rangfinders? What is the current USPGA and R&A opinion about using drones? On the website of The R&A I have not found any answer regarding drones.
At the same time drones can be useful for golf clubs for various purposes:
- Event management: to give better coverage of their events;
- Education: simulate a golf course;
- PR & Advertising: golf club and golf course promotion (e.g. West End Golf Club in Halifax);
- Security purposes (e.g. against burglaries, wild animals)
- Golf architecture: golf course planning and renovation: to be able to review cutting lines and shapes from the air and to to measure areas that had been raising questions from the membership.