U.S. Cities Replacing Fireworks With Drones Amid Wildfire Risk

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There will be no fireworks show in Aspen, Colo., this Fourth of July.

The city recently announced it has canceled its annual Independence Day display amid a heightened risk for wildfires, the Aspen Times reported.

Instead, 50 drones will take to the sky for a light show choreographed to patriotic music, according to the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

Aspen isn't the only place skipping the boom this year. Several cities and towns in Arizona have been forced to forgo fireworks in favor of drones amid wildfire concerns.

Outside San Francisco, Travis Air Force Base will see 500 Intel Shooting Star drones perform a routine to celebrate the base's 75th anniversary, USA Today reported.

"For 12 centuries fireworks were the only way to light up the night sky. Now we have technology that allows us to do precision animation and storytelling — we can write words and draw objects in the sky," Anil Nanduri of Intel told the paper.

A drone show can be more expensive, but the cost drops if the show is done over multiple days since drones are reusable, Nanduri said.

And for fire officials, the drones are a relief. 

It's "definitely worth it to use a drone over live fireworks,” Lynne Tolmachoff of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told USA Today.

Fourth of July fireworks were responsible for 869 wildfires in California alone in 2017, according to CBS News.

But some worry drones don't have quite the same magic as fireworks.

“I don’t think a drone display is going to make people 'ooh and ah,'" Julie Heckman, executive director at the American Pyrotechnics Association, told USA Today. “There’s a real thrill in being able to light your own fireworks.”

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