- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) - Fireworks have been around a thousand years; smartphones, drones and computers not quite so long. But all are coming together as the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum puts a cutting edge on its Fourth of July celebration.

“We want to be of the Top 10 best fireworks shows in the United States and we want to bring something new and exciting to everyone,” said Bob Clark, a spokesman for the museum that is home to the World War II-era aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.

The fireworks display over Charleston Harbor each year attracts upward to 30,000 people, some of whom pay admission to watch the display from the carrier flight deck.

Plans for Monday night include flying drones into the bursting fireworks to capture up-close video, then streaming it in real time over the Internet. Computer technology will allow showing that video and other presentations on the side of the carrier with a technology known as projection mapping.

A look at high-tech twists on a traditional holiday:

DRONES AND FIREWORKS

Two drones will fly into the bursting fireworks capturing video that will be relayed back to the operator with the drone controller. A smartphone attached to the controller then relays the video to the server to distribute it online, said Will Jamieson of Stre.am, the Charleston-based technology firm working with the museum. He says the fireworks should not present any danger to the drones. “These are relatively small objects and it literally has to explode right on it for the drone to blow up. There’s a lot of space up there,” he said.

CARRIER AS MOVIE SCREEN

During the celebration, a patriotic video and later a close-up video of the bursting fireworks will be projected onto the sides of the carrier. A computer technology known as projection mapping allows the video to be projected as if the irregular sides of the ship are as flat as the screen at the local multiplex. Bryan Ransom, the CEO of locally-based Moondog Animation Studio, which is developing the video, says the technique has been around for a while but has been used more extensively in Europe. He says it’s one of the first times he knows of that a ship is being used for a screen.

TECHNOLOGY AND TRADITION

Will technology increasingly become part of the Fourth of July? Julie Heckman, the executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, a fireworks industry trade group, says she’s not familiar with association members moving toward using drones. Indeed, she says, seeing a fireworks display on a computer screen loses something. “Fireworks are something you experience with all your senses,” she said, and hearing and feeling the boom and concussion when they go off is part of it.

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On the internet:

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum: http://bit.ly/29cWGPW

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