With many locations in the US experiencing a historic drought, Fourth of July celebrations in some cities will look a little different this weekend. Some cities are trading the boom of fireworks for the buzz of drones.
At the Alameda County Fair in California, the crew from Sky Elements Drone Shows prepared to light the sky, placing 100 drones on their marks. When night fell, they took flight. “I think drone shows are going to become more and more common,” said Sky Elements General Counsel and Chief Pilot Preston Ward. “Drone shows don’t have the noise element that fireworks do. They don’t have the trash element and they don’t have the fire danger either,” he added.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks were responsible for igniting more than 19,000 blazes across the United States in 2018. Incline Village, Nevada, near Lake Tahoe, didn’t want to chance it and made the switch to drones. President and CEO of Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau Andrew Chapman said, “We looked at the safety issues around fireworks. I kind of look at the concept of throwing lit objects up into the sky and is that the best thing to do at the height of the fire season?”
Ward also has pyrotechnic experience. He says each show lasts about 12 minutes and the drones are programmed with a flight path based off a custom animated storyboard. The number of drones can range from 100 to 1,000. “Generally, our shows run between $350 and $450 a drone, so that’s kinda the range and it just scales up from there. So, a hundred drone show runs about $35,000,” he says.
For some, it’s just the right price for wowing crowds with a safer alternative to a holiday tradition.
The Executive Director of the American Pyrotechnics Association says her group does not currently see drones as a serious threat to the future of traditional fireworks displays because they lack a multisensory experience.