Cover Photo: Sky Trails Over The Arena in Pula, Croatia Tricia A. Mitchell

Have you ever looked up in the sky on a clear day and saw “Shelby – Marry Me” written with puffs of clouds? If you were like the thousands of other city residents looking up at the same time, you probably wondered, “Who is Shelby?”

These messages are actually quite common. One company in New York writes more than 50 marriage proposals in the sky each year, leaving onlookers to guess who the recipient is.

This advertising art form is called “sky-typing” and it has been around for over 100 years. Historically, a single message was written with one airplane. However, it was incredibly time consuming, and each letter could take more than 2 minutes to type.

Today, sky-typing is performed with five planes. However, Google has patented an invention designed to return sky-typing duties to a single plane.

Will this “type” of advertising survive in the digital age? With the high cost of maintaining five planes and pilots, together with growing public frustration over intrusive ads, the industry’s survival is in question.

However, perhaps high-altitude drones will create tomorrow’s sky-typed ads. If so, it may lower the cost of typing a message and lead to many more moments of, “I wonder who Shelby is?”

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