It seems that there is a lot of confusion when it comes to this topic. So, we decided to make things crisp and clear for everyone. No matter if you are just a drone enthusiast or a commercial drone operator, you are going to learn something from these six things to know about flying a drone at night.
We’ll cover all the regulations, laws, equipment checklists, and of course, we’ll give you a few tips on how to get fantastic footage and create better videos with your drone. So, if you want to learn more, feel free to dive in.
1. You Can Fly a Drone at Night
The first thing we want to talk about is a common misconception that people have. And that is that you cannot fly your drone at night. Luckily, as a hobbyist, you do not need a license to do it. However, you must follow some basic safety rules. These rules are determined by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and following them will ensure that you stay away from problems. Here is what they are:
- Flying for hobby or recreational purposes only
- Following a community-based set of safety guidelines
- Flying within visual line-of-sight
- Giving way to manned aircraft.
- Providing prior notification to the airport and air traffic control if you are going to be flying within 5 miles from the airport.
- Flying drones that weigh no more than 55 lbs.
On the other hand, when it comes to commercially flying drones at night, you will have to have a remote pilot airman certificate. With, you can also do it if you have a supervisor with such a certificate.
The first the things to know about flying a drone at night is that you can legally fly it without a license, as a hobbyist.
2. Checklist for Flying at Night
There are a few things to pay attention to when preparing your drone for a night flight.
Firstly, make sure that all the batteries are fully charged. This means your drone, your remote, and a cell phone. Remember to bring an SD card and calibrate your drone as soon as you get to the site. However, you need to pay special attention to the way you transport your device and the accompanying equipment. To ensure everything stays in one piece while traveling to the place you are shooting at, take some time to learn how to pack different sorts of electronic devices.
Before you start flying, have the picture or video you want to get in mind. Always have all the shots planned out. The idea is to go from point A to point B and get what you need. Only after that can you allow yourself to fly around for fun.
This way, you are avoiding getting carried away. Just think about how many times you have been in a situation that your battery is dead, and you still do not have the footage you’ve come for. However, if you pay attention to everything from planning your route to preparing a drone and flying it properly, you will not have any problems.
3. The Best Setting for Night Flight
The next of our things to know about flying a drone at night we want to talk about are the settings.
Besides obligatory calibrating, we would also suggest changing the maximum flight attitude. Although drones are perfectly visible in the nighttime, it is much safer to keep them within 250-350 feet. Additionally, you can set a maximum distance to ensure your drone does not go too far.
Another thing we would like to mention is the Return-to-Home setting. We recommend leaving it on even when you are flying during the day. Just in case you lose a signal, it is good to know that the drone will land right in front of your feet. This is especially important if you are operating a drone in an urban area.
Always prepare your drone for a night flight.
4. Always Scout the Area
This is a thing that is extremely important when flying drones at night. You simply must know your area. You want to be familiar with where you are flying, and the best way to achieve that is to scout it during the day.
Make mental or even written notes of where any hazards could be. Be aware of all the trees, buildings, and power lines that may be in your way. It is hard to see when flying at night, so if you decide to do it, make sure to practice on a spot where you have flown during the day many times.
5. How to Get Amazing Long Exposure Photos
At the beginning of the article, we promised you some tips on getting fantastic footage, and that time has come. One of the most interesting things about flying drones at night is that you can create incredible long exposure photography. The stationary lights will remain still, while those in motion will create streaks across the picture.
These shots are not easy to get right, but there are a couple of tricks that can help you. Firstly, you want your ISO value to be way down, at about 100. This will make the picture dark, so increase the shutter speed to brighten it up. Here, you are aiming for a value between 5 to 8 seconds.
If you master this skill, it can be your own game-changer in the real estate marketing process. Just think of the stunning pictures you can create to amaze your drone service clients. Or you can make them for your own houses if you are a real estate agent and a drone enthusiast.
Long exposure photos can be a great addition to real estate drone service.
6. A well-lit drone is a safe drone.
We consider safety to be the most important thing when flying drones at night. You can never be too cautious, and even if something goes wrong and no one gets hurt, you still can lose the drone, and that is something no one wants. So, to help you maintain a visual line-of-sight, invest in a good set of drone lights.
When it comes to the onboard red LEDs, you want them to briefly turn off when taking a photo or video. This will ensure that you do not have any of that green or red flares ruining your shot.
And that concludes our list of things to know about flying a drone at night. Remember everything we talked about, and you will stay away from trouble. Fly Safe.
When does “Night” begin, and what kinds of lights should I use?
Part 107 prohibits the operation of a sUAS at night, which is defined as the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in The Air Almanac, converted to local time.
In the continental United States evening civil twilight is the period of sunset until 30 minutes after sunset and morning civil twilight is the period of 30 minutes prior to sunrise until sunrise.
The Air Almanac provides tables which are used to determine sunrise and sunset at various latitudes.
If you are flying in that 30-minute twilight period, your aircraft must be equipped with special anti-collision lights that are capable of being visible for at least 3 miles in all directions.
So, the Part 107 rules state that you can only fly your drone during the day. And that “daylight” is from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. And that if you are flying during that 30-minute twilight period you need to have lights that are visible for at least 3 miles.
Night Operations Training
Prior to conducting night operations the remote PIC and VO must be trained to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness and understand physiological conditions that may degrade night vision.
The Air Almanac- The Air Almanac
FAA Night Flying- FAA Night Flying