Drone Show Highlights Return Of Boston Pops on Nantucket

Jason Graziadei •

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No fireworks, no problem: the drones stole the show.

The 25th anniversary of the Boston Pops on Nantucket concert on Saturday featured one of the country's finest orchestras, Marc Martel rocking the music of Queen, and even a flyover by vintage World War II military planes with 5,500 people in attendance at Jetties Beach in support of Nantucket Cottage Hospital.

But it was the final act of the night that most captivated the audience: a high-tech drone show unlike anything the island had seen before. A fleet of 150 drones were launched from the Jetties Beach tennis courts as the Pops played the 1812 Overture, each one equipped with multicolored LED lights and pre-programmed by computer to assemble into a series of airborne graphics that dazzled the crowd.

The spectacular display required just three technicians from the company Drone-Pro, based in Denver, who programmed the drones to take to the skies and assemble into words like "ACK" and "NCH" as well as outlines of Nantucket, along with the state of Massachusetts, a rocket ship, and an American flag as the Pops played their final piece of the night.

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The drone show was the replacement for the traditional fireworks display that for the past 24 years had been the climax of the Boston Pops on Nantucket. With restrictions put in place that would have forced the hospital to shoot off the fireworks from a barge far offshore rather than along the harbor side of Jetties Beach as it had done in the past, Pops chairs Bruce and Elisabeth Percelay came up with the idea of using drones as a visually stunning and environmentally friendly alternative.

"Many people prior to the show expressed deep disappointment about the cancelation of the fireworks in the program until they actually saw the drone performance," Elisabeth Percelay said.
Drones have become an increasingly popular alternative to fireworks, particularly in the western United States where droughts have caused dangerous fire conditions. Additionally, many feel that the lack of noise and debris make drones an ecologically friendly - and more neighborly - alternative to pyrotechnics.

While the cost of the drone show was not disclosed, Percelay said it was roughly equivalent to what the hospital would have payed to launch fireworks from an offshore barge.

The Boston Pops on Nantucket raised more than $2.2 million for Nantucket Cottage Hospital's operations.

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