Enjoying the dazzling bursts of fireworks from beside the amber glow of a charcoal grill is a staple of July Fourth. To take this explosive tradition a step further, the Drone Racing League is using its custom-built quadcopters to give pyromaniacs a whole new view of fireworks this Independence Day.
Ryan Gury — DRL’s Director of Product — teamed up with pyrotechnics company Pyrotecnico to weave his drone through a massive aerial light show. Gury tells Inverse that high-performance drones — or “rigs” — are specially suited to gathering high risk first-person footage of everything from flying mortars to active volcanos to exploding balls of colored light.
“Racing drones are extremely resilient so pilots are more willing to take risks that you can’t do with more expensive equipment,” he says. “I knew if my drone got hit with a mortar and came down I’d be able to pick it up and repair it quickly. That’s what makes racing drones a bullet-proof way to capture high-velocity media.”
According to Pyrotechnic Innovations — a pyrotechnics informational page — fireworks can travel anywhere from 80 to 327 mph depending on the size of the shell. A projectile at those kinds of speeds could put a total a car (or at least make a serious dent), but racing drones are specifically made to be able to brush off high impacts.
Professional pilots put on virtual reality headsets to see from the drone’s perspective. This allows them to precisely maneuver their rigs through courses in neon-lit warehouses at blistering speeds of up to 120 mph. But all it takes is one tiny mistake while rounding a corner and that drone is slamming straight into a wall.
“Racing drones are made to crash, because when pilots are flying through a course they often hit the ground or the wall,” says Gury. “Racing drones are super durable, made with thick carbon plates and are able to withstand a ton of impact and in this case projectiles from fireworks.”
Gury’s drone was hit by fireworks multiple times during his stunt flight, but besides being disoriented a few times he says the drone didn’t sustain any notable damage.
So if you’re thinking about getting up close and personal to some pyrotechnics this July Fourth, makes sure it’s with a drone.