Why drone displays are replacing fireworks in some July 4th celebrations

There are several good reasons to swap traditional fireworks for drone light shows. Number one is for the dogs.
Written by Artie Beaty, Contributing Writer and  Artie Beaty, Contributing Writer
People prepping drones for a light show
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Fourth of July celebrations in some cities will be a lot quieter this year, at least when it comes to action in the sky. In several areas across the country, independence won't be commemorated with booming fireworks displays, but with the quiet buzzing of technicolor drones.

First arriving on the scene about a decade ago, drone light shows have rapidly increased in popularity over recent years, even appearing at the halftime show of last year's Super Bowl. It's a dazzling use of technology that gives viewers a futuristic show unlike anything else. 

Also: The best of Best Buy's 4th of July sale

But it turns out there are plenty of practical advantages too, and it's for those reasons that cities are turning away from fireworks and embracing drones. 

In Salt Lake City, Utah, for example, last weekend's Independence Day celebration utilized drones over fireworks. The primary reason, according to the city's mayor, was an elevated fire risk and air quality concerns. The city of Boulder in nearby Colorado made the same choice, as did several cities in California and New Mexico -- all areas where wildfires are a concern.

In addition to fire concerns, fireworks leave behind harmful chemicals (they're actually considered a pollutant), the debris can be a hazard to people below, and the noise can be disruptive, even triggering PTSD in nearby residents and panic in dogs and other animals.

Also: How to choose an air purifier: 5 things to look for and 1 to avoid

And while professional fireworks accidents aren't terribly common, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission says there were 10,200 people treated for fireworks-related injuries and 11 deaths from fireworks in 2022.  

But beyond all the practical reasons, drones have one more significant advantage over fireworks -- they're a heck of a lot cooler. 

Instead of explosions that all have relatively the same shape, aerial festivities can now take on the shape of the American flag, an eagle, city skylines, state outlines, and nearly anything imaginable, even moving images. A drone show can celebrate the USA while being completely customizable to a certain city. 

Also: The best drones: Which flying camera is right for you?

While drones probably won't be completely replacing fireworks on a large scale, especially in smaller cities, it will be interesting to see if drone shows continue to grow or if they'll be a short-lived fad.

Editorial standards