Goodbye, fireworks finales; hello ... drone formations? That's what multiple cities across the US may be seeing this July Fourth weekend, with traditional pyrotechnics shows replaced with drone light extravaganzas—especially in the Southwest, where just one spark on the drought-affected landscape can set off an inferno. Axios reports this "appealing alternative" is taking place in towns around Colorado, after a holiday fireworks display last year in Douglas County set off grass fires in three spots. The same swapping out of fireworks for drones is being seen in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Graham Hill, the head of Hireuavpro.com, which puts on drone shows nationwide, says that anywhere from 100 to 500 drones buzz into formation in his company's 10- to 12-minute programs, forming what he says is "like a big Lite-Brite" in the sky. For the Fourth of July, the drones usually fly into the shape of such patriotic symbols as the Statue of Liberty, bald eagles, and the American flag. Somewhat ironically, the drones can even emulate a fireworks display. "We've fielded hundreds of requests that we, unfortunately, can't take," Hill tells Axios of this year's demand for the drone programs—a demand he says is "exponentially larger" than 2021's.
The fear of fires isn't the only thing that might keep patriots from shooting off their Roman candles and M-80s this Independence Day. The Hill reports that, thanks to inflation, the cost of fireworks has spiked: One estimate cites a 35% cost increase across the entire industry. And, as always, pet lovers continue their anti-fireworks activism, noting how the bright lights and loud booms and bangs can send our furry friends cowering under the bed for hours. The Animal Legal Defense Fund notes local animal shelters often fill up in July as pets escape homes and yards trying to flee from the cacophony. Here are tips from Consumer Reports for those who want to help their cats, dogs, and other resident creatures feel safe during what the ALDF calls "one of the hardest days of the year for them." (Read more fireworks stories.)