Building the World

CITIES: Wildfires, Fireworks, and A New Sky


Will drones replace fireworks? Image: Nagaoka Festival 2006 by ZorroIII. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Many cities light up the sky during festive occasions. In the United States, today marks a holiday often celebrated with fireworks. But with drought plaguing some areas, the risk of igniting wildfires is causing an innovation: sky art with drones. Instead of traditional fireworks, the city of Boulder, Colorado will feature a drone show (the Marshall Fire of 2021/22 killed two people and devastated 6000 acres/2,428 hectares). Galveston, Texas will also illumine the holiday with a drone display. California towns of La Jolla and Ocean Beach will flash the night sky with animations. It’s a new idea for La Jolla: the city has forgone any fireworks for five years.

Drone aerial display during coronation of King Charles III. Image: Department for Culture, Media and Sport, by SkyMagic Drone Shows, May 2023. Creative Commons 1.0 Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Drones replacing fireworks on this holiday will not be a first. Tokyo used drones during their most recent Olympics; during their first Olympian experience, the city launched the innovation of Shinkansen. And, in 2023, the coronation of King Charles III featured an artistic drone light display.

Drones are an innovation that has grown to a $1 billion market in the past decade. Image: Drone Flying Eye, 2011 by Drone Flying Eye. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

For sky art, drones have advantages over fireworks: no smoke, no falling particles, and a quieter display. Drones are an innovation that has grown impressively over the past ten years from almost nothing to a $1 billion market in 2021.

Has your city used drones instead of fireworks? What do you think of this new trend? For a sample of drone light shows, click here.

Hirsch, Lauren and Michael J. de la Merced. “Fireworks Have a New Competitor: Drones.”1 July 2023. The New York Times.

O’Connell, Brian. “7 Best Drone Stocks to Watch in 2023.” U.S. News & World Report.

Williams, Ashley R. “Some US cities are replacing 4th of July fireworks with environmentally friendly drones.” 2 July 2023. CNN.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 U

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