It’s that special time of year when love is in the air. For many lovebirds that means romantic dinners, whispered sweet nothings and a little extra canoodling. But for couples in Verona, Italy, the love in the air came via drone.
The drone, a sort of modern-day cupid, swooped in on enamoured duos as they ambled the city’s streets. With a target in sight, the drone–dubbed the Cupidrone (and not to be confused with a similarly named piece of winged tech that delivers a slightly less romantic 80,000 volts of electricity)–would release a single red rose to stoke the flames of love.
The romantic, if slightly ominous, experience was a stunt to promote Funnyhowflowersdothat.co.uk, one of the Flower Council of Holland’s consumer brands, in advance of Valentine’s Day, and was devised by Amsterdam agency Kingsday. The agency has experience with the stealth delivery of flowers–last year it placed boxes of roses under glass with instructions to break in an emergency around Paris, should the need for a chivalrous gesture unexpectedly arise–but this effort was meant invigorate the notion of spreading love.
“Last year we spread roses by emergency boxes. So this year we were looking for new logistics,” says creative director Bram de Rooij of the idea for “Love is in the Air,” which will be distributed in U.K., France, Germany, and the Netherlands. “Drones were a perfect fit. People are warming up to their potential. Most of all, I like the way that a drone’s modernity matches so well with something as classic as a red rose. And then we added some magic by turning that impressive, mechanical device into something very loveable. The perfect cupid for 2015.”
The Cupidrone did, in fact, drop roses on real-life or could-be couples, but not without warning. De Rooij says that runners would ask people in advance if they were interested in participating in a film but didn’t tell them what was going to happen. “We did this because of safety: a drone near people is not the safest thing in the world. And otherwise people would simply look scared in the first place,” he says.
Reactions were filmed on one day and the drone, which was painted red and outfit with a special rose-release mechanism, was controlled by a professional drone pilot. The aircraft also needed some specific modifications to fulfill its role as Cupid. Specifically, it had to be reprogrammed, since drones are made to know exactly where it is, how much it weighs and how much power it needs to stay in a fixed position. “We changed the weight and added a release mechanism,” says de Rooij. “The rose added different aerodynamics and when it drops a rose, it suddenly loses 250 grams of weight. And because we removed the legs it usually lands on, we had to release and catch it from the air with our hands. That was quite scary.”
Luckily, rose recipients weren’t scared. They seemed genuinely bemused. De Rooij says the best reactions made it to the final cut, like the man who took a rose from the drone in his mouth. But it was the off-camera reactions de Rooij says were particularly amusing. “We always had a small crowd of interested grandfathers with their grandchildren shamelessly looking over our shoulders at what we were doing with the drone.” Even the people who came to Verona to visit a Shakespearean landmark were game. “We were filming in the courtyard of Juliet’s balcony really early so that we’d have the place to ourselves. We had to apologize to the people who also arrived early to enjoy the same romantic spot but instead found a film-set full of people shouting at a noisy drone! But they all wanted to participate. I think we used about half of the couples we filmed. And, because it’s Italy, they all looked fantastic.”