Heli Banners Ltd, a UK based company, owns the technology and global patent to the Helicopter Overcity Banner System (HOBS). The unique HOBS system was developed over 10 years ago and provides the safest and largest form of aerial banner advertising in the world. The system has received patent approval and Aviation Authority approvals around the world.
When it comes to finding new ways to put their aircraft to work, helicopter operators are extremely resourceful. For those who may be interested in tapping into Madison Avenue-style revenues, Heli Banners Ltd. offers a unique niche market — banner advertising. Their patented “Helicopter Overcity Banner Systems” (HOBS) enables helicopter operators to fly advertising banners sized between 5,000–50,000 square feet (1,524–15,240 square meters) in areas historically regarded as off-limits, such as stadiums and civic squares. To find out more about this, we spoke with Reuben Spiring, Managing Director of Heli Banners Ltd.
According to Spiring, their service offers advertisers three key advantages over traditional airplane banners — size, speed and location. Whereas the typical airplane banner is only about 500–1,000 square feet in size, HOBS banners start at 5,000 square feet — at roughly the same price — giving advertisers much more surface visibility for their message. Also, because the helicopters fly the banners at about half the speed of airplanes, the HOBS banners move much more slowly — allowing more time for consumers to view the advertisement. Finally, because the helicopters towing the banners are able to fly in tight over stadiums, squares, parks and other large-city outdoor venues filled with tens of thousands of people, the advertisements are sure to be noticed by many potential customers.
Video footage of a traditional airplane beach banner as compared to a HOBS banner. To see a larger picture, click here.
From an operational perspective, the requirements for flying the banners are fairly minimal. “As long as it has a cargo hook, the HOBS system will work on any helicopter model from an R22 up to a Bell 412,” said Spiring. “For advertising purposes, we have found the R44 to be a very good, low-cost model for clients who want banners up to 10,000 square feet. This allows us to compete directly on price with traditional fixed-wing advertisers, but deliver advertising banners many times the size. The Bell 206 and the EC120 can handle banners up to 15,000 square feet, and the AS350 can pick up the 35,000 square foot showstopper banners.”
The banners typically weigh between 30 KG (66 LB) up to 350 KG (772 LB). For example, a 10,000 square foot (3,048 square meters) banner weighs just 80 KG (176 LB). The more powerful the helicopter, the bigger the banner it can fly. Heli Banners Ltd. tests all the flight parameters for each helicopter before they recommend particular banner sizes for particular aircraft. In addition, they work with the local aviation authorities to show and test fly the product to ensure that all certification requirements and local ordinance issues are managed up front. “As we have grown, we are becoming much more recognized and are finding it much easier to gain approvals when setting up in different countries,” said Spiring. “Currently, we have 24 worldwide approvals, so there are very few countries where our banners cannot be flown.”
To qualify to fly a HOBS banner, pilots should have approximately 350 hours total flying time under their belt, including long line experience. Alternatively, pilots can complete a banner training course comprised of approximately three hours of ground school and 3–5 hours of flight training. For experienced long line pilots, this requirement is normally just a couple of circuits of the airfield.
“Heli Banners has a worldwide, in-house training team which consists of four current long line and banner pilots,” said Spiring. “They provide the ground school and flight training for prospective pilots and their ground crew. We also run a worldwide vertical reference and long line training academy that is a much more advanced training school.”
As demonstrated in this video, operators are able to fly 1,000 square meter (10,000 square foot) banners using R44's. That's twenty times the size of the airplane banners usually flown over beaches. For a larger picture, click here.
How it Works
For operators who are interested in finding out more about this line of work, Heli Banners is offering a new partnership program in 2009 where they provide approved operators with free flight training, sales presentations, videos and ongoing flight and sales support. “We are then also able to include them on our national sales database, which means that our advertising agency and media partners are able to sell the HOBS banner product on their behalf,” said Spiring.
In addition to actively seeking banner work for their operators through large advertising agencies, Heli Banners also offers their operators the ability to seek out work themselves. With 11 years worth of images, videos and marketing materials that have been fine tuned over many years, operators have ready access to information that is ready to send straight out to prospective clients.
“What makes the HOBS banner service unique is that we have a worldwide patent, and we are the only company in the world offering this complete package,” Spiring added. “As we approve operators to work with us, we set them up with training, sales materials and a national advertising agency,” Spiring explained. “They can either sit back and hopefully watch work come in, or they can actively get out into their local market and find work for themselves, depending on how much work they would like to put into it.”