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The View From Inside A Fireworks Show 200

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the things-that-go-boom dept.
kdataman (1687444) writes "There is a breathtaking video on Youtube of someone flying a quadcopter around and through a professional fireworks display. Of course, it was an illegal and dangerous thing to do. It also may inspire someone else to do something even more dangerous. But even so, I have watched it 4 times and get goosebumps every time. An article in Forbes says that unit is a DJI Phantom 2 with a GoPro Hero 3 Silver camera. The fireworks are in West Palm Beach, Florida."
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The View From Inside A Fireworks Show

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  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @06:51PM (#47390345) Journal

    Why on Earth did TFA call it 'illegal and dangerous'?

    It's only dangerous to the drone. There are no humans up there to crash into.

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      Perhaps he meant dangerous if the firework destroys the copter, making it crash and potentially hit someone?
      • by Ken_g6 (775014)

        Or worse, if the copter crashes into fireworks on the ground waiting to go off. Kaboom!

        • by Thiez (1281866)
          If it flies at approximately the same height as where the fireworks explode, how would that happen?
      • by sjames (1099)

        It was over water, so even if it caught fire, it would just splash.

      • by robbak (775424) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @09:21PM (#47390871) Homepage

        The area under a fireworks show already gets peppered with the remains of all the exploded shells. A little added debris from a drone struck by part of the fireworks would make no difference. They always make sure that the fallout zone is in a safe area.

        Add to that that the shells are mortar-fired, not rockets, and the risk of this is practically nil. Way less than the risks of just using and handling all that explosive.

        Every professional fireworks show - at least, all those that are televised - should include shots from a drone up there amongst it all. The spectacular pictures are well worth the tiny risk.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by anubi (640541)
          I think what he was getting at is a firework intercepting a quadcopter will revector its trajectory.

          Someone had already planned every path the fireworks were to take, so the spent shells would not land at the wrong place.

          However, having hit a quadcopter, a live firework, its payload yet to be spent, could have its trajectory revectored to a viewing area, with likely tragic consequences.

          Someone designed that thing to go off a hundred feet up, not spuzzing around under the seats of the audience because
          • by fyngyrz (762201)

            This. It was stupid.

          • by sjames (1099) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @10:53PM (#47391103) Homepage

            They are unpowered shells shot from a mortar, not rockets. If they hit the copter (unlikely), they will explode lower than planned, but still well up there and over the water. Considering that the copter was flying around their planned burst altitude anyway, it is likely that only the pilot would notice the collision.

          • by lgw (121541)

            Sometimes fireworks go off early. Sometimes they go off in the launcher. Shit happens, which is why professional fireworks shows aren't cheap: they take mishaps into account when planning safety. The mortar shells won't go farther after slamming into an obstruction.

          • by Zenin (266666)

            Extremely unlikely bordering on impossible.

            Nearly every possible failure condition would result in the quad-copter falling more or less straight down and into the water.

            These things do not glide. Even a partial motor failure would send it tumbling end over end...more or less straight down. When they fail they fall out of the sky like a rock.

          • Sorry, but nope. Even that had to be taken into account when accounting for the safety zone.

            These fireworks are shot up from mortars. Essentially a tube with a ball (the "payload") and a propelling charge underneath. The safety zone must account for misfires of all kinds, including propelling charges that are too weak to hurl the payload far enough. Which is, essentially, what would happen when it hits something on its way.

            If that now happened, i.e. if the "ball" hit the quad, what would have happened is th

          • I agree as I actually seen an almost pretty bad accident this 4th with amateur fireworks. Since it's legal to shoot off amateur mortars in this state, at least half the households here were shooting them off this year. The neighbor behind us had something go wrong and the mortar went a partially curved trajectory and ended up hitting a power line which caused it to redirect straight for where my other neighbor was shooting his fireworks off. Of course it exploded when it hit the ground and if he was ther
          • by countach (534280)

            If that was true, then birds would be a dire hazard.

      • by Zenin (266666)

        Hit who?

        No one hangs around under a fireworks display and in this instance it was all over water.

        The worst think it's going to hurt is a fish swimming too close to the surface.

      • Since this was a professional fireworks display, it is safe to assume that the person or organization orchestrating it had to take into consideration that what goes up must come down, i.e. the area where the stuff that goes boom up there lands eventually is "safe". Also because the odd black shell may come down, and the quad isn't that much heavier. Essentially, if it goes down it's basically a black shell without the possibility to detonate.

        If it could hit someone in that process, the fireworks display may

        • by ganjadude (952775)
          my father shoots off professional shows and I asked him about this. he said the worst case scenario he can think of would be if the drone was low, like within 20 feet of the launch and it blasted it with a direct hit. he said the crowds generally would be safe as they do take mishaps like a rogue firework into consideration when planning the location and the distance of the viewers. on the other hand that could potentially cause issues with the people setting them off. he says where the thing was in relati
    • by SuperTechnoNerd (964528) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @07:07PM (#47390429)
      Read about the new ridiculous rules [slashdot.org] the FAA imposed about drones.. Then you will understand.
      Don't you know we are living in a time when someone does something cool, it is automatically illegal?
      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Read about the new ridiculous rules [slashdot.org] the FAA imposed about drones.. Then you will understand. Don't you know we are living in a time when someone does something cool, it is automatically illegal?

        What rules? I see nothing in the Code of Federal Regulations or US Code covering these matters. A Federal Court has already ruled that all these FAA press releases have no binding power over anybody, dismissing the only case the FAA has brought which has gone to judgement so far.

        Federal agencies can't just issue press releases and demand that people follow them. The US is a nation governed by laws, which means the government needs a law or regulation to cite when taking action against somebody.

        I don't de

        • by kwbauer (1677400)

          "Federal agencies can't just issue press releases and demand that people follow them." Well, that ship sailed a while back, unfortunately, as far too many people believe that is how it works and our current "beloved leader" seems to spend the majority of his time furthering this notion.

      • Ridiculous? As a pilot I don't want people's toys flying around in my airspace. Hit a plane and there's a real chance you'll kill someone.

      • Everything cool is either illegal, immoral or fattening.

      • The problem isn't one guy showing up and doing something cool. The problem is next year 100 guys show up all with their drones all wanting to fly through the same fireworks display...cuz its cool.

        Guaranteed, a couple of those 100 will have had a few too many brewskys....and that will lead to a new level of creativity/coolness. And that will lead to hospital visits.

    • Sensationalism sells.
    • by Drethon (1445051)
      Because it left the ground, these days anything operated outside of the military that is off the ground is bad... or so it seems.
    • Illegal, because to film this, he probably flew above the 500 foot RC ceiling, as well as flying at night in a cloud of firework smoke makes following the "maintain visual contact with the aircraft" rule virtually impossible. Dangerous, because if the craft where to be hit, and not entirely disabled, it could easily veer into a vector that took it well out of pilot control, and end up crashing into the general public at large, all of which makes the FAA pretty unhappy.
    • by Picass0 (147474)

      Your reasonable point makes it impossible for for the OP to be on his self-righteous high horse so let us not speak of it again.

  • one time i was in Augusta, Ga for 4th of July and the river fest and saw the show. you could stand almost under the explosions. not like NYC where you are like 2 miles from the show

    same with Shea Stadium, the old Citi Field. you could get closer to the show than watching the official Macy's fireworks

    • by Rei (128717) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @07:41PM (#47390567) Homepage

      I don't get why American fireworks displays are so small. I'd love to see this copter fly through fireworks in Reykjavík on New Years Eve. The Macy's 4th of july fireworks display in New York shoots off about 10 tons of fireworks. Iceland (most of the population being in Reykjavík and its adjacent municipalities, about 250k people) shoots off about 600 tons of fireworks on New Years, the weight of about 5 adult blue whales. The whole city looks like this [google.is] for literally about an hour. It's not organized, it's just everyone shooting off an average of about 9 kilograms / 20 pounds per family - some more, some less. You see fireworks like the stuff that copter flew through in little towns of 1-2 thousand people. Even if you only count organized displays, it just seems to be so disproportionately little in the US. Pretty much every festival that does fireworks here shoots off several tons. Or otherwise just burns pretty much everything [google.is] that's not nailed down [google.is]. Or as more often is the case, both at the same time.

      • by Rei (128717) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @08:13PM (#47390659) Homepage

        Whoops, included the wrong link for the "The whole city looks like this" part - it was supposed to be this link [google.is]. The first one is a link to just a small festival display.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        about 600 tons of fireworks on New Years, the weight of about 5 adult blue whales

        Thanks for a new unit of measurement: adult blue whales of fireworks. Comparing fireworks to adult blue whales really helps make your number something I can relate to in my everyday life.

        • by drkim (1559875)

          about 600 tons of fireworks on New Years, the weight of about 5 adult blue whales

          Thanks for a new unit of measurement: adult blue whales of fireworks. Comparing fireworks to adult blue whales really helps make your number something I can relate to in my everyday life.

          Good point.
          Think of 600 tons as 27.3 Viking Longboats, each boat loaded with 160 Aardvarks.

      • by rasmusbr (2186518)

        The main reason why many governments have regulations for how much fireworks you can fire off in one night is that fireworks produce toxic smoke. Reykjavik is a relatively small city situated in what I believe is a windy area far away from any other major urban centers, so I would think that the potential for humans to be exposed being exposed to smoke from fireworks is unusually low there.

        Or perhaps the city just wants to live up to its name...

        • by Rei (128717)

          Hmm, interesting, they actually limit how many can be shot off?

          Yes, your description of size, wind, etc are accurate. Also it's a rather moist climate, not much fire risk. And most buildings are concrete. And the city is half surrounded by ocean. And since the money goes to support the rescue services, the incentive is to encourage people to shoot off as many as possible, rather than the other way around.

  • by richy freeway (623503) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @07:00PM (#47390393)

    Crappy camera work but I enjoyed it anyway. Surprised I haven't seen someone do it before (I realise someone may have).

    The question remains though, when did this place become digg?

    • Re:Cool video (Score:4, Informative)

      by Huntr (951770) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @07:13PM (#47390455)

      "The question remains though, when did this place become digg?"

      Right around Dec '04.

    • by dougmc (70836)

      Crappy camera work? I take it you'd do better?

      It's not like it's an easy place to put an expensive camera into. Anything bigger than a small R/C plane and they'd have stopped the fireworks entirely -- and personally, I'm sort of surprised that they didn't when they saw this craft up there. The odds of having the craft hit by a shell and crashing into the water were significant as well.

      And it's quite dark, so we're stuck with high iso mode.

      Personally, I thought it was quite excellent for what it was.

  • In twenty-four hours this will go from "illegal" to "high demand professional camera service" for promotions, events, etc.

    • In twenty-four hours this will go from "illegal" to "high demand professional camera service" for promotions, events, etc.

      Sorry, that's already illegal (according to the FAA).

      Just a few weeks ago the FAA issued an interpretation of existing rules that declared illegal any commercial use of video from a drone.

  • Absolutely Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2014 @07:29PM (#47390525)

    I don't understand the negative comments here. This is using technology to get a viewpoint of something in a way that a few years previously would have been impossible. Love it.

    • Yes, the shut-in is high in this story. Epic, mega, fabulous. Everyone else can stick their mountain dew/Dworkin monologues up their arses and die.

    • I love it too, but just because I love it, doesn't mean that I don't also think it's something that could have turned out really badly. The video clearly shows a number of near misses, and the last thing I want landing on a fireworks barge is a flaming, sparking machine that fell from the sky. Considering these fireworks were all directly over the barges, any near misses he had were also over them.

      Even so, that doesn't temper the fact that the video is absolutely outstanding. I'm just glad it turned out oka

      • by Archon-X (264195)

        ..as a pyrotechnician, honestly, the biggest risk here is the guy's equipment.
        As a general rule of thumb, the minimum safety distance for fireworks is 120% of their maximum range - so even if a rack of mortar tubes falls over towards the public, noone is going to get hit.

        There's a huge amount of inertia behind the bombs: it's not hard to imagine (or do the sums) to work out the energy required to hurl a 1KG 150m into the air. In a head on collision between a drone and a decent calibre firework, the firewor

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      I don't understand the negative comments here.

      I do. It's the I don't fly planes because they may crash, and there are possibly terrorists in my basement right now crowd are afraid they may end up on a TV show called "Truly bizarre ways unlucky people die".

      They are probably posting the negative comments from their phones while driving down the highway, speeding of course because the government sets those speed limits to collect fines and safety has nothing to do with it.

  • It's that thing that is dangerous, not the drones. Drones are never going to get any more expensive than they are now. They're only going to get cheaper, more disposable, and harder to trace back to their pilot.

    People are going to do whatever they please with them. If some other activity isn't compatible, then it's that activity we'll have to restrict.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      People are going to do whatever they please with them. If some other activity isn't compatible, then it's that activity we'll have to restrict.

      Great, you want every asshole with an RC drone to have unlimited freedom to burden/violate others.

      • The drone genie is out of the bottle. This is the world we not live in - where the possibility of a cheap RC craft being in a particular airspace has to be taken into account.

      • by Rix (54095)

        What I want doesn't matter one whit. Every asshole is going to have that freedom because there's nothing that can be done about it.

  • While it was cool, I can see how this could be considered dangerous. I don't know much about fireworks, but I can imagine that a collision between a UAV and the firework itself could potentially alter the trajectory of the firework leading it to go somewhere it shouldn't. You get enough senseless idiots flying these things around pyrotechnics, something bad will eventually happen.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      I'd say there is a far greater risk of the firework itself having a failure that sends it somewhere unintended, though even that wasn't much of a risk here.

      This is a fireworks display over water. The firework round has a certain total amount of energy available to it determined by the amount of propellant inside. The launchers were probably located far enough from crowds that even under the most unfavorable conditions a round could not have hit anybody - that is if the firework were directly aimed at the

    • But I can also apply physics and see how the danger is very small.

      The biggest point is that the sky is big and both the shells and the drone are small. The chance of the two coming into contact is negligible. The risk of anything bad happening if that happens is also very small - the only thing I can see happening is if a rotor happens to cut the shell's fuse. The shell is too heavy for a fragile drone to have much effect on it.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @08:01PM (#47390625)

    Though not as colorful, you can now imagine what it was like for a pilot and copilot doing raids in WWII. Scaaaary!

  • The Fisheye distortion is insanely annoying. If you are going to use fisheye lens, don't pan the camera like crazy. Who the hell does several 360s in a row with a fisheye? Insanely annoying distortion ...

  • Hey, I look on the bright side; even if it's illegal and dangerous at least the person responsible didn't use "Sail" by AWOLNation like every other GoPro video uses. So it appears they at least have some taste.

  • He didn't get a shot of the ice helicopter shattering at the end.

  • Lately the media have latched onto anything drone related and put it in a bad light - and while I think the video is awesome (I'd love to do one myself!) - the media is yet again putting this in a bad light - driving the FAA further to action. I suspect too that if the pyro-technicians/firefighters below knew he was up there they would have stopped the show.

    And when these "media controversies" come out its its always the DJI Phantom. When I first got into making model aircraft - the DJI kits were top notch

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