Rochester becomes first Upstate NY city to host Fourth of July drone show

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Detroit-based Firefly Drone Shows company designed, produced, and executed the display, which dazzled hundreds on Sunday night.

The crew began setting up around 5 p.m. in the valley at High Falls ahead of the 10 p.m. show. They brought in 200 drones (and a few spares, just in case).

All of the drones used were built in-house by the Firefly team, which is led by President and Pilot Kyle Dorosz.

"Your imagination is really the only limit,” Dorosz said, describing the show. “You can coordinate these drones to do whatever you like, and make any shape, color, design."

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Although they’re often compared to fireworks, drone shows have some key differences.

"Well the biggest difference is just the precision of the drones,” Dorosz said. “We can really put the drones into any position that we want and make any shape.”

Another major difference (and a bonus for people who don’t enjoy loud noises), is that the shapes are created silently in the sky. Some drones have cameras on them, these ones did not. These were custom-designed specifically for light shows like the one in Rochester Sunday night. The high-power lights affixed to each individual drone can be programmed to turn any color, move in any direction, and they’re so bright that they can be viewed up to five miles away.

Unlike fireworks displays, drone shows do not create any byproducts or waste. The machines run on batteries that have a 23-minute lifespan. The drones in Sunday’s show have been used in hundreds of previous drone shows.

Each drone runs off of one computer program, operated by one pilot and can be programmed to form almost any shape. A rendering is created before the show is finalized, and Dorosz said if you were to compare the final product to the initial rendering, they would be nearly identical.

If you caught the show Sunday night, you might’ve noticed the clear-cut formations hundreds of feet in the air.

"They actually have precision down to about an inch or so, as far as where they’ll be in the sky at a specific time,” Dorosz said. “So you’ll see tonight that the shapes are super crisp and super accurate."

Audience members were delighted by what they saw, and for many of them, this was a first. The show lasted 15 minutes and ended with a dazzling, patriotic tribute to the Flower City.