Editorial: Rise of the drones, Independence Day

Drones, not fireworks, light up the sky at the 2022 Hansen Dam Fourth of July
Drones, not fireworks, light up the sky at the 2022 Hansen Dam Fourth of July celebration
(City of Los Angeles)

It’s fireworks season in Los Angeles. The displays, both official and DIY, begin well before the Fourth of July. But this year may be noticeably less boomy, and the air left a little cleaner on July 5.

There are two reasons for that. First, several coastal fireworks shows have been canceled this year because the shows didn’t comply with new rules protecting water quality. Fireworks don’t just muck up the air, they leave debris in the water. If you love the sight of pyrotechnics over the ocean, however, don’t despair; several shows are expected to get the necessary permits in time, including those in Long Beach and Santa Monica.

But there’s another reason we may no longer have to mark the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by blowing things up — and suffering the environmental costs associated with pyrotechnics.


Many traditional fireworks shows have been replaced by quieter, less environmentally destructive drone light shows. For example, Los Angeles City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez will host a second pyrotechnics-free Independence Day celebration on Sunday at Hansen Dam using drones to light up the skies. The change was made for environmental reasons and because launching explosives in the hot, dry northeast San Fernando Valley poses a fire risk.

The July 4 block party at Gloria Molina Grand Park will also eschew fireworks for drones. And the Dodgers introduced drone light shows this year to replace some fireworks displays.

Other communities around the state, such as North Lake Tahoe and La Jolla, and across the nation have opted to send up the drones this year.

Call it the rise of the drones, Independence Day. While displays of unmanned aircraft painting colorful pictures in the sky might not deliver the same primal experience as bombs bursting in air, they also don’t leave us with dirty air, terrified dogs and scorched earth.