Speed Reads

rise of the drones

This Fourth of July, more cities are embracing drone shows over fireworks

Across the United States this Fourth of July, expect to see more star-spangled celebrations involving drones rather than fireworks.

Fireworks can spark wildfires, which is a major concern in the Western United States, where a megadrought is causing severely dry conditions. They are also loud, can scare animals, are single-use, and can cause air pollution, leading to growing opposition from environmental activists and pet owners.

Drone shows, however, don't have the same risks. Graham Hill, founder and CEO of Hireuaavpro.com, told Axios his company received so many requests for Fourth of July drone shows this year that he couldn't accept most of them. Demand is "exponentially larger than last year," Hill said. "If we're tracking the evolution of this, I just don't think most communities knew this was a viable option last year." His company is putting on several shows in Colorado, which saw devastating wildfires over the winter, and other drone shows are set to premiere this Fourth of July in California and Texas.

Hill uses between 100 and 500 drones to create shows that last between 10 and 12 minutes. A drone show is more expensive, starting at $25,000 compared to a small fireworks display that can cost $2,000, but drones are safer and more customizable, Axios says. For the Fourth of July, drones can create patriotic images like the Statue of Liberty and the U.S. flag, or even simulate a fireworks display. "With drones, a client can tell a story during a show, as opposed to just kind of blowing things up," Hill said.