SAN FRANCISCO – Get in the car, kids. It's time to see the Fourth of July drone show.
Towns in California, Colorado and Arizona – facing another season of drought and wildfire – are turning to drone shows as a less dangerous alternative to organized fireworks, encouraged by the development of jaw-dropping, choreographed shows such as the one Intel prepared for the Winter Olympics broadcast.
Travis Air Force Base outside San Francisco, just an hour south of the Yolo and Napa county fires forcing evacuations, is trying an Intel drone show this year. Aspen, Colorado, and towns in Arizona – which had shelved fireworks shows because of fire risk – are also experimenting with drone shows.
These displays have wowed viewers with their animated displays of hundreds of tiny, LED-sporting drones. But a trade group for pyrotechnics maintains: They're nothing without the "Boom!"
Intel's Anil Nanduri, general manager of its drone group, begs to differ. The Travis Air Force Base show will use hundreds of drones and feature a gigantic red, white and blue image of an American flag and California icons, all time-synchronized to music that will be broadcast for the viewers.
"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," he said.
Some of the research conducted at the base on proper use of small aircraft overlapped with what Intel was working on, and base officials reached out to Intel first, said Capt. Lyndsey Horn, chief of public affairs for Travis Air Force Base.
“We thought, ‘How awesome would it be to bring them out to the base and celebrate the culture of innovation and take advantage of our proximity to Silicon Valley?'" Horn said.
Travis Air Force Base has never done fireworks before because of fire danger in the area.