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Will Drone Shows Replace Fireworks for Independence Day Celebrations?

Will Drone Shows Replace Fireworks for Independence Day Celebrations?

Maybe…but drones have tough competition. The amount Americans spend on pyrotechnics each year is mind-blowing.

This July 4th, I will be heading to my in-laws, where I will enjoy a huge hamburger and watch the fireworks display at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

In other parts of San Diego County, drones have replaced the fireworks. However, they may not have the “bang” necessary for long-term interest

La Jolla and Ocean Beach will host high-tech drone light shows, an alternative to traditional pyrotechnics that has gained popularity over the past few years.

Last Fourth of July, Imperial Beach pivoted to a drone show after the fireworks company they contracted with canceled on them one week before the holiday.

Spectators had mixed feelings over the show, with some telling NBC7 they were mesmerized by the drones’ abilities to display creative, patriotic images and others saying they prefer a bigger bang.

According to Imperial Beach’s website, the city is reverting to traditional fireworks this year.

The move to drones is being made partly due to fire-safety concerns.

An alarming 19,500 fires were sparked by fireworks in 2018 alone, according to the National Fire Protection Association, and nearly 30% of these firework-related blazes occur on the Fourth of July. The SkyShow aims to snuff out this risk in North Tahoe by swapping traditional fireworks for drones, striking a balance between celebrating and preserving our most precious asset, the land.

Unwisely, some officials are trying to convince fireworks-loving American patriots to switch over using the tired, moralistic “sustainability” argument. For example, here is how the drone display in Salt Lake City is being marketed.

This switch to drone shows as an alternative to traditional fireworks not only guarantees a safe and environmentally friendly celebration but also demonstrates Salt Lake City’s commitment to innovation, sustainability, and the well-being of its residents. By reducing the risk of fire hazards and minimizing harmful air pollution, Salt Lake City is taking an active role in creating a healthier, greener, and more vibrant community.

The better approach is to focus on innovation and allow the area’s residents to decide which type of sky show they would prefer to see and what is the better choice for the region.

Thomas Dolan, the owner, and operator of Brightflight Drone Shows, explains the approach.

Currently, Dolan said his company has around 100 drones. They are looking to scale up to anywhere from 200 to 500 drones.

“We have fun with toys, that’s what we do,” Dolan said with a laugh about drones. “It gives you a view of the world that you just, you can’t get.”

Dolan described the differences between drone shows and fireworks.

“I certainly don’t want to sit here and say that I don’t love fireworks. I love fireworks,” Dolan said. “We know there are downsides to fireworks, there are risks… They are putting little missiles in the sky that blow up, and with that can come injury, fire, especially in Colorado, [that’s a] huge concern. And drones offer that safe substitute.”

Drone companies have tough competition. The amount of money Americans spend on pyrotechnics each year is mind-blowing.

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), we spent $2.3 billion on fireworks in 2022.

Just as surprising is how much Americans spent on fireworks in 2020, the first year of pandemic-related lockdowns. Despite social distancing rules and mask mandates, those who love the 4th of July came together to spend $1.9 billion on fireworks.

I encourage both drone navigators and fireworks operators to be both legal and safe.

Personally, I am good with either approach….as long as the theme is red, white, and blue (especially after a full month of rainbow nonsense).


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The only way drones replace fireworks is if you blow the damn things up.

E Howard Hunt | July 4, 2023 at 10:13 am

Real men have been replaced by drones. Why not fireworks as well?

Morning Sunshine | July 4, 2023 at 10:35 am

drones could be cool. But the fireworks show is more than lights in the sky – it is the boom that shakes the ground.
it is the smell of the smoke.
it is the community gathered together to gasp in unison.

thad_the_man | July 4, 2023 at 10:37 am

I can see fireworks companies adopting a mixture of both. Which could get quite spectacular and probably more safe.

I suspect the majority of firework accidents are from amateur using “home fireworks” rather then the proffesional displays.

As for sustainability, I believe the burned stuff goes back into the environment better then the user drones that are no longer usable going into a landfill,

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

John Adams called it. We don’t need no stinking drones.

Not just no, but HELL no.

Antifundamentalist | July 4, 2023 at 11:52 am

The left will push for it, no doubt. They will cite safety. They will cite humanitarianism. They will cite pets. They will cite Vets. They will cite trauma. They will twist actual fireworks into somehow being disrespecful and racist.

National Geographics reports:

“Scientists found that vulnerable people and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to air pollution from firework celebrations.”

Drones, like soccer, are a communist plot.

I owned a business in Imperial Beach and the feedback I got from customers last year was that the drone show sucked and was lame. So glad they are going back to fireworks this year.

I love to see the new kinds of fireworks, there are a few every year. Drones can surely be a part of it, but not the whole thing.

Our national anthem was written about an artillery bombardment where a young man went to bed wondering if he would have a country in the morning. We need to remember that. Drones will not have that impact, which I am sure is a big factor in whatever push there may be to use them instead of fireworks.

The lesson of the COVID lockdowns ought to be clear: cities can decide to scrap the displays, and if they do, the local people will put on their own displays.

Well, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with chocolate bunny rabbits and colored hard-boiled eggs; the birth of Jesus with a tree we’ve cut down and stuff into the living room, covered with glitz and glitter and a trip to the mall for ugly ties and sweaters; so why not celebrate Independence day by blowing stuff up and setting fire to homes, fields and forests and dismembering the occasional finger?

For me, it’s a miserable hay-fever day; several neighbors with dogs will spend the day comforting their trauma; and I’ll patrol the property to prevent a fire started by my idiot neighbors – who in the past have had fireworks wars with roman candles. Grass is white it’s so dry – so’s the forest that 40 feet from my house. Was just last year some ne’er-do-well set a forest fire a mile up the road and the county put it out – thankfully it was in a strip of trees and the power line clearing provided a fire break.

One real issue not mentioned, applicable for the PNW anyway, is the fireworks are mostly sold on reservation land which is heap-big revenue for the tribe. That I’m aware, their immune from laws prohibiting sale and use.

    Paul in reply to MrE. | July 4, 2023 at 12:59 pm

    I’m with you on the fire and injury risk… like any use of fire, the use of fireworks needs to be carefully considered and supervised for safety.

    However, I think you’re off the mark with your assertion that fireworks are some contrived way of celebrating our independence from Great Britain. What are fireworks if not a tribute to ‘…the Rockets’ red glare, the Bombs bursting in air…?’

nordic prince | July 4, 2023 at 2:46 pm

Nope. Ain’t the same.

It’s on a par with using some lame-ass synthesized sound effects rather than real cannons for Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

“Newer” doesn’t automatically mean “better.”

In my hometown they have a WWII Destoyer. They do the fireworks from a barge in the river. At several key moments during the National Anthem they would fire the ship guns. Not sure if they still do.

The feeling in your chest from hundreds of yards away is visceral. You FEEL the Bombs Bursting in Air.

Subotai Bahadur | July 4, 2023 at 5:19 pm

I can see the Left pushing this. After all, we are governed by drones over which we have no control, so why not have drone “fireworks” displays that no one cares about.

Subotai Bahadur

Roy in Nipomo | July 4, 2023 at 7:08 pm

Maybe the Left would approve of the use of drones if we brought in some Ukrainian and/or Russian drone operators to direct them. We could then also get the loud bangs that are missing from our drone displays.

not_a_lawyer | July 4, 2023 at 10:07 pm

There has been at least one academic study over the last five years that discovered that patriotic displays, such as air shows and fireworks displays, tend to move people to the right on the political spectrum. The effect is not large, but it is statistically significant.

I am guessing that the left has taken this study to heart and are in the process of banning traditional displays of patriotism.