Fireworks’ Final Kaboom!

Who hasn’t stood in awe under a glittering night sky dripping with colour and pattern, and felt transported into a state of wonder and nostalgia? Fireworks resonate deeply with people around the world as they continue to draw crowds into the tens of thousands and are looked upon with both fondness and excitement by children and adults alike.

It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that fireworks could be extinct in the next decade. This is a perfect example of an industry that has fallen behind with innovation and is now being replaced by a more advanced, more innovative, and certainly more nimble option.

What is it? Drones.

Drones, run by a single pilot and an algorithm, are already powering light shows by innovative companies such as Intel. Anil Nanduri, vice president and GM of Intel’s UAV segment was recently quoted in Fast Company saying “it’s like a display in the sky where you have much finer control of the animations. You can have anything from text messages to shapes and transformations”. Think of the magic that companies like Disney could create, with Buzz Lightyear going to infinity and beyond over Cinderella’s castle, or for civic events like Rockin’ New Year’s Eve in Times Square, where images of the performers could dazzle the sky. These very notions should be sparking explosions in the minds of everyone who’s evening entertainment offerings involve antiquated firework technology… just think of the ways that you could elevate the performance, the experience, and in turn of course, the revenues.

In fact, in every single area of comparison, drones outdo pyrotechnics. When looking at cost, a 20 minute professionally produced traditional fireworks show can ring in anywhere from a couple of hundred thousand dollars to well into the millions. And of course, once the show is over, all materials are blown up. As an added cost benefit, drones are lighter, safer, and shows powered by them carry a lower insurance premium. While drones require an initially significant investment, their reusability not only outpace fireworks, but they bring the sustainability aspect home as well as they simply hop up and go to work over and over again each night.

Companies should never underestimate the impact of sustainability to today’s power generations… Millenials, GenZ, and even GenX and the Boomers are more conscientious than ever before about the impacts of their actions on this earth. 

Drones are also significantly quieter than the alarming booms of traditional fireworks. In fact, Banff, Canada has already put a ban on fireworks to protect animals (both wildlife and pets), who are easily spooked and put in harms way by the intense noise pollution resulting from fireworks. Air and water pollution are also not a small byproducts of fireworks shows, and were also considered in the Banff fireworks ban, which is praised by PETA and afforded Banff a Compassionate Town Award. Significantly, Disneyland Paris can’t use fireworks in their nightly entertainment shows due to noise restrictions, but drone powered light shows would be be a game changer for this park.

Cognizant of the risk of wildfires, many U.S. states including California, Arizona, and Colorado also have used or plan to use drone powered light shows in place of their traditional fireworks presentations.

With drone light show technology already in use at highly innovative entertainment spectacles such as Coachella, the 2017 Super Bowl half time show, and of course the unforgettable 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea, and the significant costs associated (both environmental and literal) of a pyrotechnic fireworks show, it’s only a matter of time until the great booms live on only in our memories.

I highlight industries like this one, that have simply iterated in a time where innovation is akin to survival, to really hit home that in this time of incredible disruption, legacy brands in particular need to get their heads in the innovation game in a major way, or risk being left behind. For Drone “fireworks”, however, the sky is literally the only limit!