Move Over Fireworks, Drone Light Shows Are Taking The Stage

China, the nation where fireworks was invented, is now hosting celebratory drone light shows instead of fireworks. A drone light show lit up the night sky above Shanghai in celebration of the 2020 World Artificial Intelligence conference in June. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, public areas and international flights were shut down, which caused the event to be an entirely online event, like so many other shows this year.

We can all relate to starving for entertainment after months of lockdown or semi-lockdown. Many of us have watched everything we imagined months ago, and may even have read a couple of books.

Fourth of July went by us and probably did not have the impact it had in the past, because of the limitations due to Covid-19.

China may be using drone light shows as a replacement for the hazards that often surround fireworks. Many of us are all too familiar with the accidents caused by our carelessness in handling fireworks.

Drone light shows have the advantage over firework displays because drones do not produce noise and chemical pollution which can endanger those who use fireworks. In addition, drone light shows are reusable.

The drawback is that there are only a few dozen companies in the world that offer the training, the technical skills, the supplies necessary to plan, and put on, an impressive drone light show, and that provides the proper permits. Intel is one of the few such companies that is ahead of most others in this technology. They specialize in creating dynamic 3D light shows called, “Shooting Stars,” which are autonomous swarms of drones — very small unmanned quadcopters — a helicopter with four rotors, which are especially designed for light shows.

A Shooting Star drone weighs a mere 330 grams and is “constructed with a soft frame made of flexible plastics and foam and contains no screws . . .”* and is described by a spokesperson from Intel:

“The quadcopter’s propellers are also protected by covered cages – all features designed to ensure the drone is safe to fly, is splash-proof and can fly in light rain.”*

These drones are equipped with the mere essentials, such as Global Positioning System (GPS), sensors, and a powerful LED light. In fact, such a light is able to create more than four billion color combinations.* This allows these drones to produce an incredible range of effects that dwarf what fireworks can produce and thus provide opportunities for a rich variety of artistic displays.

Someone describes it as follows:

“The video starts with four layers of drones combining to form a rectangular prism, which then transforms into a disappearing rainbow. The drones then create the conference’s logo that transforms into Chinese characters. The drones then create a flat map of the world that slowly turns into a rotating globe of the world.”*

Unlike fireworks that obviously cannot fly indoors, there are drones that are designed specifically to fly safely in constrained air spaces, such as indoors. And there are now drones that are so quiet that they are being used to monitor wildlife.

As computer technology progresses, fleet size continues to grow. In 2019, a Guinness World Records title was awarded to a fleet of 2,018 drones, and as 5G technology advances, tracking location will become more precise, which enables drones to fly closer together to create even more detailed, and thus impressive, shapes and patterns in the sky.


In our modern world where we are becoming more sensitive to environmental concerns, maybe it is time for the U.S. to catch up to China and recognize that celebratory drone light shows make more sense than fireworks, that it is time for fireworks to move over and for drone light shows to take center stage.

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