This is what it looks like before the drones take to the sky. For tonight, be on the lookout for a giant American flag in the sky. 

Image: Courtesy: CDM

With Stage II fire restrictions in effect since June 29 and the Lake Christine fire in Basalt, there’ll be no fireworks exploding in Aspen’s night sky this Fourth of July. But that doesn’t mean the sky will be dark; in fact, far from it. After researching safer alternatives for the dry conditions, the town of Aspen is replacing traditional pyrotechnics with a drone show.

“When exploring alternatives for fireworks, I was inspired by the opening ceremonies at the Olympics and the possibility of bringing this relatively new technology option to Aspen,” says Jennifer Albright Carney of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, host organization for Aspen's annual July celebration. 

The show, designed specifically for Aspen’s Fourth of July celebration, features 60 drones, each a foot in diameter and with a brightness of 7,000 lumens (a bright xenon bulb for a car headlight produces around 3,000 lumens), and will be accompanied by patriotic music, meaning you won’t hear the buzz of drones.

Great Lakes Drone Company, one of only three licensed by the FAA in the country, is producing the event, happening due to a special exemption permit to the Town of Aspen’s drone policy. Matthew Quinn, owner and CEO of Great Lakes Drone Company and a licensed 107 pilot, will operate and oversee the show, which is run by a software system with staff on the ground as visual observers for the drones.

While Aspen isn't the first town to celebrate with a buzz instead of a boom, towns in California and Arizona are also celebrating America’s birthday with drones, Aspen’s show is the first of its magnitude at such a high elevation, according to Quinn. 

The show begins around 9:15 p.m. and is expected to last 14 minutes. If rain or winds higher than 19 mph occur, the show will be cancelled and rescheduled for Thursday, July 5th at 9:15 pm.

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