Drone show

The Great Lakes Drone Co. cancelled its drone show scheduled for Thursday’s Fourth of July celebration in Aspen due to technical difficulties with the drones’ software. The above image was posted to the company’s Facebook page in May.

A drone show scheduled to take place on the evening of the Fourth of July has been cancelled due to technical problems with the drones’ software, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and the drone operator announced on Tuesday.  

This marks the second year in a row that the drone show, which would be the first of its kind in Aspen, has been cancelled. Last year, ACRA brought in the drones, from the Great Lakes Drone Co. of Michigan, to replace the traditional Independence Day fireworks show because of dry conditions and fire danger. But the show was cancelled at the last minute due to high winds. 

The drone show was set to take place as part of this year’s celebrations as a make good on the contract. Pitkin County commissioners also enacted a county-wide, season-long ban on fireworks in May as a proactive measure against wildfire, though it can be lifted for special events if the sheriff determines that conditions are safe. 

ACRA found out on Tuesday from the drone operator that they had to cancel Thursday’s show because of safety concerns, said Melissa Wisenbaker with Promo Communications, a PR firm that works with ACRA.

“This was something that happened very last minute,” she said.

She added that even if ACRA somehow could pull together a fireworks show in 48 hours, it would not do so as it is sensitive to concerns about fire danger. Wisenbaker said that danger is still an issue, even with the moisture that has occurred this spring and early summer.

A press release from ACRA issued at about 5 p.m. on Tuesday included a statement from Matthew Quinn, owner and CEO of the Great Lakes Drone Co.

“In an effort to maintain the highest safety and quality performance standards, we have issued a safety stand down to our drone light show fleet until further notice,” Quinn said in the release. “We identified a backend communications logic failure with our software and communications equipment. Until our software vendor can thoroughly identify and correct this issue through performance-based testing, we will keep our fleet grounded. As hard as this decision is for any company to make, we feel it is the right one and in line with the aviation industry standards of safety."

ACRA Vice President of Event Marketing Jennifer Albright Carney said in the release that, “we are of course disappointed to have the drone show cancelled so close to the Fourth of July holiday. Given the potential for heightened fire danger, as Aspen and the West have seen in past years, ACRA had the foresight to bring in this new technology to the Fourth of July celebration. The drone show is a great innovative solution, but sometimes with new technologies, come the possibility of technical difficulties.” 

Wisenbaker said it is too soon to tell whether ACRA will attempt to hold a drone show with next year’s July 4 events. She did not have information about the value of the contract with Great Lakes Drone Co.

ACRA previously received a recognition in April from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization for its move to hold a drone show instead of fireworks. 

ACRA had already planned to add additional Fourth of July night-time festivities for locals and visitors, including a community party at Wagner Park with DJ Naka G playing from 8 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.  A laser light display, originally slated to take place after the drone show, will now take place at 9:15 p.m. The laser light show is produced by Laser Encore, which has a decade of experience in producing spectacular laser light shows.

In addition, the 2nd Annual July 4th Block Party, on Hopkins Avenue outside the Aspen fire station, is still scheduled for 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. and is produced by Aspen Volunteer Fire Department (AVFD), Mountain Rescue Aspen and ACRA. There will be food, a beer garden and live music, with all proceeds from food and drink going to AVFD and Mountain Rescue.

Glenwood Springs is planning a laser light show over Red Mountain,  along with free activities, music and craft/food vendors from 5 p.m. — 10 p.m. in Two Rivers Park. 

New Castle will have a fireworks display from Apple Tree Park on the evening of July 4, while Rifle will proceed with a fireworks display on Wednesday after sunset.


Curtis Wackerle is the editor of Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at curtis@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.