If you navigate to YouTube and type ‘videos of drones flying at night,’ you are likely to come across videos with tips about flying a drone in the dark. This article intends to collect all these tips and present to you a complete guide about flying your drone in the night. Keep reading if you have been flying a drone without knowing these basic essentials.
- Do you need a license or permit for night flying?
- What constitutes personal use?
- What about commercial use?
- Tips to follow for flying a drone at night
- Last words
Do you need a license or permit for night flying?
This is one of the most debated topics in the recent years concerning drone flight at night. There is a distinction that is somewhat unclear about getting a license or permit for flying a drone in the dark. As a hobbyist or for personal use, flying a drone does not require a license or permit. There is, however, a set of rules and safety measures that one must take into consideration. These rules have been established by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to ensure the safety of the passersby.
What constitutes personal use?
By personal use, it means that you intend to fly the drone at night for nothing more than recreational purposes. It’s what YouTubers do when flying drones to make a vlog for their channels.
There is a set of rules one must follow for these recreational nighttime flights. These are as follows:
- Fly within the visual line of sight
- Make sure to alert the airport or air traffic control tower if you intend to fly within 5 miles of an airport
- The drone must not weigh more than 55 pounds if it is intended for personal use
What about commercial use?
If you intend to fly a drone at night for commercial purposes, a license becomes mandatory. You are required under Part 107 to attain a remote pilot certificate to fly the drone. You may apply for this certificate in the following ways:
- An aeronautical knowledge test must be passed. These tests are usually held in FAA-approved testing centers across the country.
- Or if you already own a Part 61 pilot certificate, you ought to complete a flight test within a period of 24 months while taking the online training course made mandatory by the FAA.
Once you have successfully completed either of these steps, you’ll receive a pilot certificate and then it’s time to apply for a Night Waiver from the FAA.
Tips to follow for flying a drone at night
Now that the license requirement has been established, it’s time to move on to identifying the basic tips to know before flying a drone at night.
Know your flight area
The first and foremost tip to take into account to fly a drone at night is to be familiar with the area you intend to fly the UAS in. You must either have flown there before or be accompanied by someone who has. If you do not know the area well, there are greater chances of a crash. Thus, make sure you have figured out the buildings and other obstacles in the area to ensure a safe flight.
Remember also that different countries have different rules, so what is legal in Singapore might not be legal in New York: do some good research before deciding to fly your drone at night in specific places.
Remove the ND filter
Whenever you fly a drone at night, make sure to remove the ND filter. The best idea is to remove the ND filter before you leave your home. There is no need to carry it along with you at nighttime. This will spare you the time and effort of doing it later once the UAS is in the air.
Fly at a higher altitude
Another important tip to consider is altitude. At nighttime, it tends to be quite dark, so the possibility of missing obstacles is higher. In order to fly safely, it’s advised to choose higher altitudes at night to avoid any and all obstacles. You may go up to 300 feet and avoid running into obstacles on the way. Try not to aim for an altitude higher than 300 feet because that tends to violate the height limit set by the FAA.
Don’t lose sight of your UAS
Despite the altitude, you cannot afford to lose sight of the drone at night under any circumstances. The FAA guidelines state that the UAS must be flown within the line of sight, especially at night. You must not find a fixed position to operate the drone from and let it out of sight. Make sure to follow it all the way to the end of the flight, or you could end up crashing it in one of those tall buildings, power lines or trees.
LEDs must be turned off
Although you might want to turn the LEDs on during the flight for capturing videos or snapping photos, this is not a good strategy. This is because with the LEDs turned on, there is likely to be an annoying red glow that will ruin the video and image quality.
Choose nighttime settings
Another obvious tip to follow for night flights is to switch to the nighttime settings. These settings comprise of drone calibration, altering maximum flight altitude, setting the maximum distance, and turning on the Return of Home (RTH) feature. Moreover, as previously identified, it will also change the LED light settings accordingly. Keep also in mind that there are some night vision drones on the market.
Have everything charged
You cannot afford to go out for recreational or commercial drone flight at night or even during the day without having the flowing device components fully charged:
- Remote controller
- Cellphone (if you own a Phantom)
If you forget to charge any one of these, don’t risk putting your drone up in the air. Not all drones come with a low battery indicator, so it’s better be safe than sorry.
If you own a drone for personal or commercial use, just make sure to get your hands on the FAA community-based guidelines before flying it, whether in the day or at night. Moreover, you need to get a pilot certificate to avoid being penalized for flying without the mandatory permit. Once all of this is done, keep the aforementioned tips handy for night flights to make videos of drones flying at night. Good luck!