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JULY 4th DRONES: How drone shows work and will they replace fireworks?

july 4 drone show sapulpa let freedom fly
Posted at 6:27 AM, Jul 02, 2024

SAPULPA, Okla. — Nothing beats an old-fashioned fireworks display with the family on the Fourth of July.

However, a growing trend for celebrations is light displays with drones forming objects in the sky.

Sapulpa is having a massive drone show during its Let Freedom Fly event on July 3.

How to Plan a Drone Show

Such a spectacle requires a lot of coordination and planning.

The whole display is roughly the size of a football field, almost like a screen or a sheet, with hundreds of individual drones dancing over people’s heads.

The lit-up drones form different shapes and, together, animate moving objects and scenes.

As much as it’s a work of art, it’s a feat of engineering and programming.

2 News sat down with Tyler Jack from Sky Elements, the company that operates Sapulpa’s drone show and many others across the country. They’ll coordinate two separate fleets of 200 drones for a 10 to 15-minute extravaganza—400 drones total.

“So, in that initial call [with the client], it's just we're focused on trying to build a storyboard,” he explained. “So, what do we want? What kind of story do we want to tell in the sky?”

Once everything's approved, “Then we'll actually go ahead and move on to what we call the mock up phase,” he said.

“That's when we'll actually go ahead and put everything into drone form or dot form," he continued, "so you can see how each of those animations are going to look [when] made out of drones.”

The third stage is video rendering, during which the team will put everything into software and plot out how it’s all going to look—from take-off, through each sequence, all the way until they land. Jack said they need to get the timing exactly right, and then they can layer in music or audio to add some more depth.

While they’re walking through those steps, the team needs to get a lay of the land so the massive display fits and the spectators get the best possible experience.

Drones vs. Fireworks

As drones become cheaper to build and buy and better overall, they entered more places in people's lives— including celebrating the United States’ independence.

While numerous towns across the nation adopted drones for their July 4 events, as NBC News’ Valerie Castro recently reported, some turned back to fireworks.

Sapulpa’s Let Freedom Fly event is bringing back its 400-drone display.

When asked if these drone shows replace fireworks, Jack replied, “Yes and no.”

“I mean, I love fireworks. I don't think they're ever gonna completely go away,” he explained. “But, again, drone shows are a really nice alternative, for a couple of different reasons. Sometimes, folks don't like … the potential for that pollution. Obviously, there's people with noise sensitivities and animals.”

While they plan to only do a drone show in Sapulpa, it doesn’t always have to be one or the other, however.

As Jack told us, sometimes they plan to blast fireworks in the background while drones zip across the sky. Other times, they attach pyrotechnics to the drones.

When & Where Is Let Freedom Fly?

Let Freedom Fly, presented by Paragon Industries, Inc., takes place at D-Luxe Properties (919 S. Main St, Sapulpa).

  • The drone show starts around 9:45 p.m., the event includes many other activities:
  • free face painting for the kids
  • food trucks will serve from 6 to 10pm
  • Live entertainment from The Fabulous Midlife Crisis Band from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

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