This past weekend, you likely witnessed a handful of drones making their way through the skies, capturing the fiery festivities (whether they were allowed to or not). But when you combine consumer-level aerial stunts with fireworks, not everything goes as planned.
Just ask Dane Christensen, a drone enthusiast who uses his UAV to make short films. This weekend, Christensen planned to make a movie about two teens who strap fireworks to a drone. “I wanted to do a short film playing off the social stigma that drones are ‘deadly not friendly,’ when in fact it’s the opposite,” Christensen tells WIRED.
The story would revolve around some teens who make enemies out of a firework-carrying drone. At first, it would be all fun and games until the drone turns on them. But things did not go as planned: As the video evidence shows, the fireworks attached to the drone had other ideas. As Christensen aptly puts it, “Short story—I strapped Roman candles to my DJ1 Inspire 1 Drone and it blew up.”
Christensen isn’t the first person who’s endured unforeseen consequences of combining drones and the Fourth. Jos Stiglingh, who filmed the viral video of a drone flying through a fireworks show in Palm Beach, Florida last July 4, says he’s actually sold his drone because he “got into a bit of trouble with the FAA.” He does suggest, however, that enthusiasts who want to try such a feat put tape over their device’s navigation lights. “This way, your camera only draws light from the fireworks,” for better contrast. Of course, he admits this is a “big no no,” because an unlit drone is a hazard. He says his drone, too, took a hit that night, but there was no resulting damage.
Unfortunately, Christensen wasn’t so lucky. The drone videographer is currently droneless, and raising money for a new unit on GoFundMe. However, he says he would do it all again. “If I get another idea for a short film requiring fireworks on the drone I would do it. The Roman candles weren’t so much the issue. It was the cheap masking tape I used,” he says. “The candle broke free and the kick from the shell launched it into my propeller. You can see in the picture that the candle was poorly placed on the drone—it was perfectly aligned to shoot back and hit the propellers! Ultimate fail. Next time I’m definitely using duct tape because it seemed the drone could handle the Roman candles.”