Could fireworks fizzle out as drones rise in popularity?

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  • Sadiq Khan
    Sadiq Khan
    British politician, Mayor of London (born 1970)
 (Chris Gorman/Big Ladder)
(Chris Gorman/Big Ladder)

Drones may soon overtake fireworks at celebrations such as New Year’s Eve as light displays surge in popularity.

In January, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan organised the UK’s largest 300-drone light display, a 10-minute show as “a message of thanks and hope” before the first national lockdown.

The Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony also saw the use drones and more than 1,000 people attended the Mercia Marina drone show to celebrate Bonfire Night in Derbyshire, earlier this year.

Creative coordinator of SkyMagic, organisers of the London New Year light show, Ollie Howitt told the Guardian that demand for drones had increased over the pandemic.

She said: “We do think it’s going to be something that’s ever evolving, as opposed to it being a short-lived sort of fad.”

Drones are a greener and safer alternative to fireworks which are known to frighten pets and aggravate health conditions such as asthma.

Ms Howitt added: “Drones are no emission, they’re reusable, there’s no fallout or any debris or that kind of thing. So in that sense they are a very good, sustainable option.”

A study from researchers at University of Birmingham documented the danger of fireworks displays on asthmatics and others with lung-related illnesses.

Ajit Singh, author of the study, said: “While sources of particulate matter (PM) such as power plants and vehicles are of concern, events with fireworks and bonfires can increase ambient PM levels and lead to short-term adverse effects on air quality, visibility, and human health.”

A British Fireworks Association spokesperson emphasised that the impact of fireworks is actually “minor and very short-lived”, while drones could pose their own environmental problems.

They said: “Recent studies have suggested that there is likely to be more pollution from a couple of cars driving to an event than caused by fireworks at an event.

“Suggestions are that drones have less of an impact on the environment, but we have grave concerns about electrical demand and use of lithium batteries which are known not to be all that ‘green’.”

London New Year’s fireworks dispaly has been cancelled for a second year in a row due to a surge in Omicron Covid cases in the capital.

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