Hundreds of flying machines, one pilot: What makes a drone show?
There’s a new high-tech way to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday.
While drones may not cause the same explosive excitement as fireworks, they do provide colorful lights in cool formations, along with the faint whirring of propellors.
Park City will have a drone show on the 4th of July at 10 p.m. at the base of Park City Mountain. City council members said they decided to give drones a try instead of fireworks because of wildfire concerns.
The city contracted with Firefly Drone Shows from the Detroit area for the show.
On KPCW’s Local News Hour Monday morning, Firefly’s Matthew Sanker said the shows include hundreds of drones. The formations are specific to each show.
“A very common misconception is, people think that there's, you know, 200 people out there with a controller, and we've choreographed it to that detail,” Sanker said. “We've designed a specific software that only one person needs to actually be at the helm and pilot the drones. It doesn't matter what quantity, either. 500 drones is still just one person at a computer.”
He said his company does up to about 100 shows per year, many of them during the summer.
“It's like the Super Bowl,” he said. “We've got so much going on, show after show after show for the couple of weeks before and after the Fourth of July.”
Park City Special Events Manager Jenny Diersen said city employees saw a show in Cottonwood Heights that convinced them drones are a safe alternative to fireworks.
“Once the police department saw how that show was operated and how well it's controlled and how safe it is, they really supported the request to move in this direction,” she said. “It's great to go and check out what other jurisdictions are doing, too.”
Sanker said the main precaution Firefly takes to keep the fleets of little flyers from harming people or surrounding areas is a fallout zone. Like a fireworks show, the drones will fly above a clear area where people are not allowed.
He said 9 out of 10 times they go off without a hitch, but even the occasional rogue drone that doesn’t respond to the computer’s commands doesn’t pose much of a risk to anyone.
Organizers said the best place to see the Park City drone show Tuesday night is the base of Park City Mountain. Other suggestions for a good view include the municipal golf course, City Park, and lower Main Street.