25 January 2024

You won't miss fireworks, Canberra: the Australia Day drone show is absolutely spectacular

| Genevieve Jacobs
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You won’t miss the explosions and the whiff of sulphur – but it will take your breath away. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

It starts small: a gentle drift of green lights rising across the lake, the water rippling with colours beneath them.

But then the lights resolve into first an emu, stars and Mulyan the eagle, the Ngunnawal curator spirit appears later beating enormous wings across the sky.

It’s a magical and very moving effect, reminding us of where we live and the people who come together here.

The Australia Day drone show will run for four evenings, in three separate shows from tonight (25 January), and it is absolutely breathtaking.

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There’s plenty of Australian imagery and plenty of Canberra imagery, too. Black Mountain rises out of the lake, a globe resolves into a map of Australia before kangaroos hop across the sky, followed by creator spirits.

The eagle’s feather drifts to the ground and there are words of welcome: Yumalundi, Gamburra.

The Commonwealth Star as depicted by drones. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Later, the floral emblems of each state blossom into being (in the order in which they joined the Federation), a rippling shimmering field of Australian flowers from the Waratah to turn native bluebell, correas and pea flowers.

The kangaroo and emu reappear to form the Australian coat of arms before the drones reform again, inviting spectators to Rejoice in Nature.

There’s a soundtrack and voiceover spoken by Stella and Bonnie Bell, who are Ngunnawal traditional owners, but besides that, there are no bangs and pops, no smoke and no terror for nearby animals.

The show drew audible gasps from spectators at the preview. For mine, this outstripped any fireworks show I’ve seen and you won’t miss the explosions and the whiff of sulphur.

In addition to the sky show, you can enjoy night markets from 5 pm each night, with a wide variety of cuisines available, locally made arts and crafts, live performances from musicians, and roving entertainers.

The drone shows run for around 12 minutes each. The main event hub will be at Commonwealth Place on Lake Burley Griffin and there is a smaller secondary hub at Regatta Point.

The floral emblems of each state blossom into being (in the order in which they joined the Federation). Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The shows run at approximately 8:30 pm, 9:30 pm and 10:30 pm. At the end of each segment, the drones return to their docking stations to recharge. Timing can be a little flexible as the drones wait for the departure of bats from Commonwealth Park, but there’s plenty to see and do while waiting and celebrating our beautiful city.

READ MORE How to run a Canberra ‘sky show’, by the veteran who flew military drones in Afghanistan

Free shuttle buses will run from Woden Interchange platform 6 and City Interchange platform 3 from 7:00 pm onwards. Return Transport Canberra shuttle buses will operate from Regatta Point and Langton Crescent (bus stop 1777 opposite the Treasury Building).

Due to the public holiday timetable on Friday, 26 January, return shuttles will take passengers to Tuggeranong, Woden, Belconnen, and City interchanges. No other connecting services will be available, as the bus network is scheduled to a Sunday timetable.

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Richard Walsh11:59 am 28 Jan 24

Looks like it’s actually only running for 3 nights 🙁

GrumpyGrandpa5:10 pm 25 Jan 24

As delightful as the rechargeable drone light-show probably is, if given the choice of pretty lights with a voiceover by Ngunnawal representatives, or explosions of light, colour and sound, for me, the traditional fireworks wins every day of the week.

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