Determination of Aerial Shell Burst Altitudes

One type of fireworks data generally only guessed at is the altitudes of aerial shells at the time of their burst. In addition to addressing general curiosity, this data is often necessary when designing major aerial displays. Frequently it is important to know fairly accurately at what altitudes the various shells will appear. The rule-of-thumb, that shells break at about 100 feet per shell inch, may be a handy guide but is only very approximate and does not address differences between shell types and manufacturers. J. G. Taylor (Pyrotechnica X) published a theoretical paper which discussed a triangulation method for measuring the height of an explosion in the air. The paper was elegant in its mathematical approach, but may have been somewhat lacking in terms of practicality. The method suggested in this article is less elegant but is also quite practical.

Ref: Selected Pyrotechnic Publication of K.L. and B.J Kosanke, Part 1, (1981-1989), pp 109-111

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