When he was only 16 years old, Otto Dieffenbach earned his pilot’s license. He went on to receive a BS in Engineering Mechanics from the United States Air Force Academy, an MBA in Business Administration and Management from Golden Gate University, and a Master’s of Business Aeronautical Engineering from the USAF Test Pilot School. Upon completing his studies, Otto held engineering managerial positions at companies like Racal Communications and Lockheed Martin. In 2011, with the help of Ed Hanley, Rick Barrera, and Bob Avery, Otto merged his business, engineering, and aeronautical background with a passion for unmanned vehicles to begin a small startup in San Diego called Flyguy Promotions.
Flyguy Promotions builds custom remote flying images to promote businesses. Advancements in drone technology and lightweight materials enable Flyguys to design visually stunning flying advertisements. Aerial marketing has long been a novel way of attracting potential customers. Planes trailing an advertising banner or a promotional blimp have become common sights at outdoor gatherings be it the beach, over a city, or at a sporting event. In recent years aerial marketing with drones has become popular since they are less expensive, can get closer to people, and have an innate ability to grab an audience’s attention.
Some of the clients Flyguys has worked with include Google, Greenpeace, BBC, and Discovery. The drones Flyguys provide are not simple unmanned flying objects displaying a company logo or message. As explained on the company website, “We work with each client to develop Identifiable Flying Objects (IFOs) tailored to the client’s desired appearance and performance concept. We render a preliminary design and in some cases build a prototype for client evaluation and discussion.” These IFOs could be a replica of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz flying upon her broomstick, Snoopy sitting on top of his red doghouse, or R2D2 from Star Wars.
In honor of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, Otto built a small scale TARDIS using foam and attached it to a drone. Two years later, he was determined to build a flyable, full sized TARDIS to be revealed at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con. This became the starting point of many drone supported IFOs for Flyguys. One of Flyguys’ best known drone IFOs is one that Otto created just for fun and to celebrate Christmas. In 2014, from the SEFSD field next to Mission Bay in San Diego, Otto flew a Christmas tree with presents around its base. The video of the VTOL (Vertical TakeOff and Landing) 4ft tall tree has been viewed more than 150,000 times.
In 2017, Otto built another Christmas IFO drone, this time a 10ft long sleigh complete with Santa and a reindeer. Weighing only 6lbs, the sleigh was no challenge for the drone it was built around. With a super moon as a backdrop, Otto flew the Santa Sleigh drone over San Diego, delighting viewers below of all ages. While Otto’s Christmas drones were built purely for his enjoyment, they fit in perfectly with how magical drones can be. Christmas is a time that embraces the idea of believing in the magical. Drone technology is taking a concept that was at one time more magical than applicable and making it realistic.