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Finally, the appropriate answer to what the buzz is about for your holiday weekend: Drones. Three hundred of them. Each with its own LED light that can glow in the entire RGB color spectrum and with a programmed mission to zip into formations from the American flag to the Statue of Liberty (or Darth Vader).

“Drones Over Paradise,” coming July 6, is the first formal synchronized drone display in Collier County. The flying machines will zip over the Paradise Coast Sports Complex as the culmination of a family-friendly post-Independence Day weekend in patriotic displays accompanied by themed music.

The show is sponsored by Collier County, along with several supporting corporate sponsors, and brought to the county by Texas-based Sky Elements, which has created drone shows all over the U.S.

A more welcoming display

According to Paradise Coast Marketing Manager J.P. Terrasi, the idea actually came from Paul Biernes, the former Collier County director of tourism. In its “post-mortem” from the fireworks display last year, he was with the group mulling over several issues, including what the fireworks might do in the future after a number of ball fields at the sports complex, which were dirttopped at the time, were sodded with grass; and how to regain the empty space, a required fireworks safety margin, that had closed off the rear parking lot and the possibility of a second exit.

Biernes had seen drone displays elsewhere and suggested the county try the concept.

Tyler Kubicz, development manager for Sky Elements, is sure they won’t regret it. The two partners who started the company made quantum leaps themselves from being a fireworks provider, he said, but they’ve never looked back. The demand is still growing.

“We have about 35 different shows for the Fourth of July that are happening simultaneously throughout the U.S., and quite a few in Florida. We have about five in Florida,” he said.

Kubicz called the drones an alternative to rather than a replacement for fireworks. Still, they have definite advantages: There’s no concern about stray sparks or fires, and no loud noise to scare youngsters or pets. For the provider, they’re also permanent goods, rather than single- use. Drones won’t let a few sprinkles bother them, Kubicz said. And they can stay their buzzing courses in winds with up to 30 mph gusts.

“What’s more our kind of cancellation thing would be visibility for air traffic controllers, because for night shows you can fly in most visibility, but you need at least three miles of statute visibility to safely fly, legally fly,” Kubicz said.

Sky Elements can program 1,500plus drones to buzz into formations so sophisticated even the stars in the American flag have points, al-though most of its shows are far less numerous than that. Kubicz said the Naples show will have a squadron of 300 drones: “That’s pretty impressive for your first-time show,” he said.

Party before and after

As of early June, the company hadn’t planned all the images for its 12 minutes of displays. However, the opportunities are unlimited for creative lead Brian Geck’s motion graphics programming, so no one should be surprised if a logo for the county CAT bus system appears over the horizon at some point. Sky Elements has made the Statue of Liberty hover above Manhattan, produced a 3-D Santa with sleigh and created an eagle with sparks streaming from its wings.

Both the show and parking are free. Only food and beverages must be purchased, and guests should also bring seating or blankets from which to enjoy the show. With the expanded ability for parking around the stadium and an extra exit for 2024, the county wants people to use the Paradise Coast lots rather than parking along Collier Boulevard, which created a traffic snafu last year.

There are also attractions after the drone show to create more of a trickle-out departure.

“We have an after-party with live music, food and drink,” Terrasi said. “We’re hoping people will stay and enjoy themselves.”

This story was published in The Naples Press on June 28.

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