Maria Cugini sheds light on lighting up your drone
Drones have been steadily infiltrating different aspects of human life by offering options to replace an increasing number of activities. They can be seen in both recreational environments and professional settings including races, fireworks, weddings, light shows, law enforcement, rescue, etc. Commercially available drones vary in size from units that fit in a smart phone case to units that are larger than a desk.
Because many activities take place at night, requirements for lighting will continue to evolve alongside drones. Drone operators have certain personal preferences or standards that they think lights should meet, and then there are certain federal and state regulations that drone lights must meet to be operable at night.
Lights on drones have two main purposes – to see and to be seen. There are several drone lighting options out there with a variety of features and benefits, but drone operators can make the correct decision depending on the intended purpose.
Lights to See:
- General Illumination – Lights can be added to a drone to allow a camera to identify or document the scene. Spot lights, camera lights, and flood lights can be used for this purpose. These lights would be useful for search and rescue, investigation, law enforcement, inspection, photography, etc.
- Forensic Illumination – Scientific lighting can be added to drones to identify objects that fluoresce and phosphoresce. This has uses in crime scene investigations as well as in farming, where blue light (LED or Laser) can be used to identify dead plants after a frost
Lights to Be Seen:
- Anti-Collision Lights – Drones used by professionals at night require, under Part 107 of civil twilight flight (from about 30 minutes before sunset to 30 min after sunrise), a 107.29 night waver. This waiver requires a blinking light that can be seen from 3 statute miles for the purposes of anti-collision.
- Navigation Lights – Navigation lights can be placed on a drone in the same manner as a normal aircraft. Green and red lights on a drone can help identify direction of flight.
- Police Lights – Blue and red lights, as used in a police vehicle light bar, can be installed to identify the drone as a police vehicle.
Before moving forward with any lighting decisions, consult local and federal laws to ensure that you are in compliance with regulations. It’s also important to fully understand how the lights will interact with the drone and what adjustments you might need to make for flight time and battery life.
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“Expert Insight” is the independent views and opinions of the submitting named author of this article.