Western US cities are scrapping July 4 fireworks because of wildfires. So they’re using drones instead

Jul 4, 2018, 12:17 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:01 pm

Intel Shooting Star drones create a U.S. flag during 2018 Independence Day celebration rehearsals o...

Intel Shooting Star drones create a U.S. flag during 2018 Independence Day celebration rehearsals on June 28 at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. Full Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Conrad

(CNN) — Cities and towns across the drought-stricken western US are skipping Fourth of July fireworks because of fears they could spark wildfires.

But that’s not keeping these communities from being lit for the holiday.

Instead of fireworks, municipalities in California, Arizona, and Colorado will illuminate the night skies with drones equipped with LED lights.

Officials made the switch amid concerns that fireworks mixed with high temperatures, dry air, and windy conditions pose too big a threat to areas already being ravaged by wildfires.

In Fairfield, California, roughly 500 Intel drones will create a free light show at the Travis Air Force Base, according to CNN affiliate KTXL.

And multiple Arizona towns, including Carefree and Cave Creek, will have a smaller show using 30 airborne drones, CNN affiliate KNXV reported.

In Aspen, Colorado, as many as 60 custom-made drones will decorate the mountain-filled skyline for an audience of thousands.

Deb Braun heads the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, which organized the town’s show. Aspen didn’t get fireworks last year because of poor conditions, so this year had to be different, she said.

“In a beautiful resort town like Aspen — where people have been coming for the Fourth of July for years — it’s a special feeling, and to end with fireworks really solidifies that,” she said.

How the drones work

Intel’s drones are large LED lights strapped with propellers and sensors.

The equipment is controlled by computer software that decides where they fly and which ones are lit up at a given time.

Each drone communicates individually with the main computer, and GPS and precision flying keep drones from bumping into each other, KTXL reported.

The drones themselves are very small — weighing in at under a pound — but come with a big inventory. Each can create over 4 billion color combinations, according to Intel.

But just like their sparkling alternative, drones need certain conditions for the show to go on.

If there’s too much wind or rain, tonight’s show will get postponed, Braun told CNN.

“It’ll be a nail-biter until the very end,” Braun said. “Fingers crossed, it’ll be a fabulous show.”

They’ve been used for light shows before

This Fourth of July won’t mark the first appearance for LED-lit drones.

The little aircraft made an appearance in a record-breaking display at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Over 1,200 of the machines put on a pre-recorded light show that created images of a snowboarder and the Olympic rings in the sky.

Lady Gaga’s 2017 Super Bowl halftime show also featured hundreds of lit-up drones.

Aspen’s Braun thinks they’ll continue to get used in the future. They might even replace fireworks, she said.

“I think this could be the new norm,” she said.

(2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.)

KSL 5 TV Live


President Joe Biden will host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House on December...

Kevin Liptak, CNN

Biden to host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at White House Tuesday

President Joe Biden will host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House Tuesday as discussions on a Ukraine aid deal remain stalled in Congress.

4 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump attends his civil fraud trial on Dec. 7, in New York City.
(David Dee...

Jeremy Herb and Kara Scannell, CNN

Trump says he’s not testifying in his civil fraud trial Monday

Former President Donald Trump wrote on his social media platform Sunday that he is no longer planning to testify in his civil fraud trial in New York on Monday.

7 hours ago


Chandler Watkins, CNN

Over 50 pounds of fentanyl seized in largest fentanyl bust by Oregon sheriff’s office

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said a months-long investigation ended in several arrests and resulted in one of the largest fentanyl seizures in state history and the largest in agency history.

8 hours ago

Secretary of State Antony Blinken appears on CNN's "State of the Union" on December 10. (CNN)...

By Jack Forrest and Sam Fossum, CNN

Blinken calls sexual violence inflicted by Hamas ‘beyond anything I’ve seen’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken forcefully condemned Hamas for sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attacks, and criticized those who were not quick enough to do the same.

11 hours ago

emergency lights...

Andy Rose, CNN

Three people killed, including child, after tornado strikes Tennessee

A tornado that cut through Clarksville, Tennessee, Saturday evening left at least three people dead, the county officials said.

1 day ago

Liz Magill, President of University of Pennsylvania
(Kevin Dietsch, Getty Images)...

Matt Egan, CNN

University of Pennsylvania president resigns after hearing on antisemitism

In a stunning downfall for the leader of one of the world’s most prestigious universities, Liz Magill, the president of University of Pennsylvania, voluntarily stepped down from the helm of the Ivy League school on Saturday following a torrent of criticism for her testimony about antisemitism on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

Western US cities are scrapping July 4 fireworks because of wildfires. So they’re using drones instead