You must have come across those astounding red and green shimmering drone lights in the night sky. This may have had got you thinking as to whether the lights are stars on the horizon or some drone whizzing across the sky. To be honest, you are not alone if you have thought so! We have delved deep into this top to determine how drones appear at night and we are really excited to discuss with you what we found out!
More often than not, hobby drones are fitted with lights of some sort. These lights blink as white, green, and red at nighttime. They can also appear as different colored strobe LEDs. They cannot be seen during the day. However, they can be witnessed from a distance as the daylight fades into darkness.
If you are still wondering how these lights appear at night and what their actual purpose is, then you must keep on reading this post!
Types of drone lights
Typically, drones come with two kinds of lighting systems.
- Navigation lights: These are generally solid lights which implies that they do not blink or serve as strobe lights. They can be viewed as solid white, green, or red colors which is pretty much what most people come across at night while watching a drone flying.
- Anti-collision lights: Anti-collision lights blink or act as strobe lights. They also have similar green, white and red colors.
One can employ both the navigation and anti-collision lights on a drone so one does not really have to choose between the two variants. However, it is always interesting and beneficial to know the difference between the two light systems.
Not so long ago, anti-collision lights were not a permanent feature of basic variants of drones. Having said that, technology has become so advanced these days that you would see anti-collision lights as an integral feature of most quadcopters. As a matter of fact, some manufacturers have excelled in developing drone lighting systems that let a pilot switch between different types of light systems; thereby enabling you to give a more personalized touch to your drone. Cool!
These features let a user to set a specific light for anti-collision purpose only while the other light may be configured for navigation. This makes it easier for the user to recognize what is actually taking place.
This all seems to be quite exhilarating. However, the question that arises here is whether drones are required to have lights legally speaking?
Do you need lights?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) monitors civil aviation within the US and is a sub-division of the United States Department of Transportation.
What is FAA’s take on drone lights? Is it legally mandatory for drone owners to equip their devices with lights?
The FAA has formulated varying regulatory requirements for drone users that need to be followed keeping in view the time of the day. So, in other words, the time of the day will dictate the postulate of the law that will have to be adhered to in terms of drone lights. Let’s delve into the details:
- Daylight: Daylight is defined as the time period between half an hour before the official sunrise and half an hour after the official sunset in a certain area. Anti-collision lights are not required during the day time. So, FAA has not laid down any requirements in terms of drone lights during this time of the day.
- Morning and evening civil twilight: Morning civil twilight is the time period between half an hour before sunrise till an hour after sunrise. Evening civil twilight ranges from half an hour after sunset till an hour after sunset. Anti-collision lights are mandatory for drone flights during this time of the day.
- Night: The time period lying between the end of evening civil twilight and the commencement of morning civil twilight is defined as nighttime. Anti-collision lights are mandatory for drone flights during this time as well.
Nevertheless, some obfuscation still persists regarding the use of anti-collision drone lights. That is why we suggest you to be careful regarding the use of anti-collision lights.
They should be switched on at any time when the pilot considers that their use would assist fellow pilots to spot their drone. This is particularly helpful on a cloudy day. Prevention is always better than cure, as they say!
Use of anti-collision drone lights
If you are a rookie who is about to embark on his or her first nighttime flight adventure, you must be wondering why would you even need anti-collision lights when your device is already equipped with navigation lights.
There are a few reasons that make it mandatory for you to fit anti-collision lights into your drone. Let’s have a look at these factors:
- Enhance visibility: Anti-collision lights enable a drone pilot to spot his drone better at nighttime. A drone may have come with inbuilt drone lights, but these lights cannot be seen during the day. Anti-collision lights are bright and help pilots identify their devices in the dark.
- Assist fellow pilots: When it comes to pilots who are maneuvering other aircraft, anti-collision drone lights are a great help as they assist them in spotting drones flying around in the sky. Law enforcement agencies, pilots as well as civilians can spot your drone from a distance thanks to these awesome anti-collision lights.
- Safety: It is quite evident that once the drone rises into the sky at night, it becomes doubly difficult for the pilot to spot it.
Losing sight of your drone at night could spell doom for your expensive investment. Your drone could crash into some obstacle and get fatally damaged. Besides, you could also end hurting someone around you as well.
- FAA regulations: It is mandatory according to FAA regulations to have anti-collision drone lights installed on your machine. It does not matter if one is flying a drone for enjoyment purposes or commercially. It is imperative to have these lights fitted into your drone.
It is important that the lights can be seen from a distance of three (03) statute miles or greater which means that the traditional drone lights will not be able to serve the purpose.
It is also advisable not to gamble one bit with these rules and regulations as the FAA reserves the right to confiscate your drone in case of any violation.
Tips and Tricks
You may be planning to equip your drone with lights and set out for a nighttime aerial shoot. Having said that, before you visit the market to purchase drone lights, there are a few tips of the trade that you need to focus on in order to ensure that you get your hands on a suitable set of drone lights.
- Number of lights: You need to figure out the number of lights that are needed for your drone. The reason for this is that some drones come with different geometrical shapes and at least a couple of lights are required to cover the entire machine and to ensure that light is distributed equally on all sides.
- Direction: You also need to ascertain as to whether you want the drone lights focused in a certain direction or you want them to spread equally. The lights developed by most of the manufacturers out there typically focus in a single direction which can cause havoc during nighttime flying adventures. It is judicious to have the light spread out equally.
- Type of light: We would recommend you to purchase lights that can be switched between solid lights and strobe lights. This would enable you to have access to both navigations as well as anti-collision lights at the stroke of a single button. This can come in really handy in case of light failure. If one of the lights stops working, you can always resort to the other one.
- Weather: The weather at the time of flight also determines the kind of light that needs to be employed. You may get stranded in the rain during the flight but the poor visibility may hamper the return of your drone back home. Better quality drone lights are also required when flying in foggy conditions.
- Battery: The way drone lights are powered is also vital. Some of these lights get powered directly from the drone’s battery, which can have an impact on the drone’s flight time. Some lights employ LiPo batteries that can be charged as and when required. We prefer such lights as they last longer and they can be recharged as well. They also do not have any adverse repercussions on the drone’s performance.