Bid to replace July 4 fireworks with drones fizzles

Devastated by wildfires last year and with continued dry weather increasing the risk of further fires, communities around Lake Tahoe have made the decision to swap fireworks for drones for this year’s July 4 celebrations.

With fireworks causing thousands of accidental fires on July 4 each year, local residents are all too aware that the fire risk is even greater when the ground is this dry.

The situation prompted organizers to switch to drones for dazzling light shows at Lake Tahoe’s Kings Beach on Sunday, July 3, and again in Tahoe City on Monday, July 4.

But unfortunately, like ancient fireworks, modern flying machines are not immune to the forces of extreme weather, with strong winds in the area causing planners to postpone both events.

In a release announcing that screenings would now take place on Labor Day in September, Tony Karwowski of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association said the decision to cancel the screening “wasn’t easy,” explaining: “Unfortunately, the forecasted wind models have not changed in recent days, and reports indicate that there is a 98% chance that the drones will not be able to fly over the lake within safe operational limits on July 3 and 4.

However, a drone display at Incline Village on the lake’s north shore will continue as the location of the display on the high school ball courts is less exposed to the wind gusts expected to occur along the shoreline of North Lake Tahoe.

Ahead of the postponement, Karwowski said, “Celebrating Independence Day with entertaining light shows remains important to our communities, but our priority is to balance that intent with the need to care for Lake Tahoe and reduce the risks of fireworks.” , adding that they were “eager to support something new.”

Katie Biggers, executive director of the Tahoe City Downtown Association, noted that fireworks “have their own list of known environmental impacts, including noise pollution, lake effects, and increased risk of fire at a time when wildfire risk is already so high. .”

She said the decision had been made to switch to “an eco-friendly alternative to fireworks … in an effort to protect and preserve the place we all love to live, work, play and visit.”

Advances in drone technology and software in recent years have resulted in a growing number of drone companies offering light shows using the autonomous flying machines.

Intel, for example, has built a reputation for creating entertaining nighttime shows with hundreds of drones loaded with colorful LED lighting. The displays are designed by people using specially made software that controls the flight of the drones so that they collectively create different images, shapes and colors. And best of all, there is no risk of accidental fire.

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