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Some cities drop July Fourth fireworks for safer, quieter and greener alternatives


Here's a sound I've been hearing for days.


INSKEEP: It's the season of fireworks - or has been. But are fireworks fading?


There's been a fresh push in recent years to use safer, cheaper and greener drones for light shows.

RICK BOSS: It's definitely a great alternative if you're worried about localized pollution that's happening when the fireworks go off and leave debris that might leave some heavy metals in the area.

SCHMITZ: That's Rick Boss, the president of Sky Elements Drone Shows.

INSKEEP: Joseph (ph) Pappas, a communications and technology director at Superior Fireworks in Orange Park, Fla., also points to safety concerns.

JOSH PAPPAS: You're still handling a consumer-grade explosive device, and you need to handle that with respect and care and make sure you're following all of the directions for how to use the product safely that are on all the warning labels.

SCHMITZ: The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 11 deaths and more than 10,000 fireworks-related injuries last year in the U.S. But Bob Weaver of Nevada's Goldfield Fireworks says pollution is mostly localized, while most accidents are due to human error or natural events such as lightning.

BOB WEAVER: It always becomes controversial and in the news right around this time of year. And then, on July 5, the whole issue goes away for another year.

INSKEEP: Pappas says that while drones are taking to the skies more often at big events, fireworks are still king.

PAPPAS: The complexity of a drone show really isn't something you can create at the consumer backyard level for most people.

SCHMITZ: Drone shows are still a new phenomenon, and it's unlikely they will overtake fireworks anytime soon.

BOSS: In fact, oftentimes, drones and fireworks go well together.

INSKEEP: And with a price tag for a drone show starting at $15,000, we can expect many people to continue to rely on the rocket's red glare.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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