Dazzling Drones

Fireworks never fail to delight, do they?

The discovery of fireworks, approximately 2,000 years ago in China, is thought to have happened by chance when a cook accidentally mixed three common kitchen ingredients. The mixture was developed into a firecracker which became an essential part of Chinese festivities and thought to be powerful enough to expel evil spirits. In 1295, Marco Polo brought fireworks to Europe from Asia and as Europeans travelled to the New World, so did their firework recipes.

On July 4, 1777, the first anniversary of the day the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, fireworks became a Fourth of July tradition. To this day, events around the world use fireworks as part of their celebrations; guaranteed to thrill and make for a spectacular finish, they are a key way to mark the occasion.

A modern firework consists of a tube containing gunpowder and many small pods, called stars. Each star holds fuel, an oxidising agent, a binder, metal salts or oxides for colour and a fuse. Each star makes one dot in the explosion.

Unsurprisingly, China produces and exports more fireworks than any other country in the world and seem determined to pioneer an electronic replacement. Widely hailed as a futuristic and low-pollution alternative to traditional fireworks, the highly publicised display in Shanghai to mark the start of the new decade featured 2,000 drones taking off then creating shapes such as an animated running man figure.

A few days after New Year’s Eve, it transpired that the impressive show actually happened on the 28th December and had been pre-recorded. Although this was a disappointing discovery, the light show certainly demonstrated that fireworks are on the brink of taking on a new life, with less crackle and more visual pop.

While some may pander to the nostalgia of smoky back gardens and the excitement of a whizzing Catherine Wheel, drone technology offers a green, reusable and more comfortable experience, without noise and smoke pollution and posing less of a risk of injury to people.

This is also a technologically impressive feat. Intel’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2018 included a flying display of 1,500 drones. Controlled by a single pilot, an algorithm automatically programmed them to fly in formation and the choreography displayed a level of detail and colour combinations that would be hard to achieve with fireworks.

Everyone likes a show and there is something mesmerising about watching activity in the night sky. Perhaps replacing the traditional with flying robots will inevitably become the next logical step, combining two essential ingredients, creativity with technology, to rival many of the firework displays we see today.


By  Anna Green on February 4, 2020

Topics: Industry Insights

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