Colorfully lit drones will be flying in patriotic formations over cities and towns across the U.S. this July 4th as a newfangled alternative to fireworks — particularly in the bone-dry West, where sparks can cause catastrophic wildfires.
Why it matters: Finally, there’s an appealing alternative to traditional pyrotechnics, which critics have been hating for years (due to noise, pollution, injuries, and environmental harm).
– Among some fireworks fans, sentimental attachment is being supplanted by pragmatic concerns: In Douglas County, Colorado, for instance, last December’s holiday fireworks caused grass fires at three launch sites.
Driving the news: As communities ban fireworks because of drought, a small but growing number are turning to nighttime drone shows as the flagship entertainment for Independence Day.
– Demand is so high that the handful of companies that operate drone lights shows say they’re completely booked — and have been for months, leaving lots of late-to-the-table municipalities out of luck this year.
– “We’ve fielded hundreds of requests that we, unfortunately, can’t take,” said Graham Hill, founder and CEO of Hireuavpro.com, which makes shows of 10-12 minutes using anywhere from 100 drones (“the entry-level”) to 500.
– Demand has been “exponentially larger than last year,” he told Axios. “If we’re tracking the evolution of this, I just don’t think most communities knew this was a viable option last year. “
After rare winter wildfires devastated Boulder County, Colorado, several Denver-area towns moved quickly to hire Hill’s company for July 4th.
– One of them — Parker, Colorado — said in a statement that while it “recognized the beloved tradition” of fireworks, it’s trying a drone light show as a “one-year trial” for 2022.
– Parker described the show as “a new and innovative finale experience” that will last 12 minutes and “feature multiple designs and choreographed movements from a fleet of drones set to patriotic music.”
Among the places switching to drone shows this year: Galveston, Texas; North Lake Tahoe, Calif.; Imperial Beach, Calif.; and Lakewood, Colo.
– While drones are more expensive than fireworks — typically starting at $25,000 compared to as little as $2,000 for a small-town fireworks show — they’re billed as safer, cleaner, and more customizable.
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