According to Insider Intelligence, the drone services market is expected to grow by $63.6 billion by 2025, with consumer drone shipments predicted to hit 29 million by roughly the same time.
That’s a lot of drone dollars. (Note to self: Is “Drone Dollars” a million-dollar idea? We’ll see.)
Anywho, drone technology now seems to be a competitor of – in addition to industrial applications like security cameras, terrestrial sensors, and autonomous ground-based robots – fireworks.
Fireworks, of all things.
We’ve seen the likes of corporate drone shows announcing new products or collabs in the past, but this Fourth of July season really seems to be pitting them against crackle-and-explode pyrotechnical setups as “The Star-Spangled Banner” echoes in the distance.
Though many are surprised at this next-gen shift in what is thought of as our patriotic tradition, the logic here is quite sound. The New York Times notes that drone-based light displays are quieter, safer, and environmentally cleaner. Drones are considered to be a lot more controllable, as well. Fire threats (i.e. not unlike the state of the ongoing Canadian wildfires) and myriad other environmental concerns have prompted major U.S. cities to forego fireworks in favor of this alternative; a spectacular drone light show, whether or not an area is categorized as a high fire danger risk (in terms of threat minimization).
Take Salt Lake City, Utah, and its mayor, Erin Mendenhall. In a recent news release, Mendenhall said, “As temperatures rise and risks increase, we must be much more conscientious of both our air quality and the potential for wildfires.”
Additionally, Salt Lake City’s neighboring city of Boulder came to a similar decision this year. It altered its previous tradition of celebrating with the Independence Day Blast (a tried-and-true Boulder event since 1941). It looked to drones to herald more safety in the face of climate change and worker precaution.
As mentioned, drones are overall quieter, require less immediate hands-on-deck work from humans (as opposed to remote-operated drones, where a pilot can be secured a safe distance away), and drone shows as a whole are considered to be a steady wave of the future for large-scale happenings like shows each July 4. And while – naturally, even – there has been and will continue to be resistance to drone-ferried nationalism and a call to return to expensive firework equipment – the price tag on drones has begun to outweigh celebration-stapled risk factors. Even the regulatory clearance required to get into the drone business is being seen by many as just another step into the future, rather than a hindrance or the type of sci-fi-esque fear that used to come with newer rollouts of drones and hoverboards. (Cue Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly flying by on a high-stakes, time-traveling hoverboard chase.)
With drones already simulating logos, character animations, and folks’ names in the sky, the majority of drone show operators are basically saying the same thing here, in regard to the Fourth: “Give it a chance.”
This all said it’s not as though fireworks emporiums will all shut down this July 5, never to be heard from on highway billboards again. Of course not. This also isn’t to say that drones themselves are infallible; heck no. “Technology is both a blessing and a curse” in any direction you look, and drones aren’t excluded from such adages. And yet, rampant environmental worries are still spreading, and fireworks admittedly cause both air and noise pollution, whereas drones don’t concern in this way.
Overall, pivoting to widespread drone shows is a big investment. Many will continue to take on the gambit; others will shake their heads and continue firing colorful missiles into night skies. But this drone show trend is very much that – a trend. And come July of 2024 or 2025, they could be substantially more commonplace than they are today.