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Drones come in a wide assortment of sizes and uses and also have a variety of different functions and features. As their technology has continued to advance drones have become much more popular and affordable at the same time. With this increase in drone usages has come many questions including whether flying a drone at night is allowed.
Flying a drone after dark is allowed if the drone has lights on it so that you can see where it is at all times according to the FAA. If your drone does not have lights on it that you would be able to see after dark then you are not allowed to fly in the dark.
If you are in another country besides the USA you will want to check with your local laws to see if flying a drone after dark is allowed.
When it comes to flying drones, whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, there are some guidelines and rules you need to follow, provided by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) assuming you are in the United States.
Some other rules that the FAA has for drones are:
- Register your drone
- Keep your drone at least 5 miles away from any airports
- Fly below 400 feet
- Keep your drone within a line of sight at all times
- Do not interfere with manned aircraft
- Never fly over a person or moving vehicle
- Don’t interfere with emergency services
- Don’t fly under the influence
- Don’t operate your drone in a careless manner
In this article, we will take a closer look at the question of whether drones can fly at night or not, and some tips for flying your drone at night as well. You can also check out the video below for more information.
Can I fly my drone at night as a hobbyist?
The answer to this question is a little bit more complex than just a simple “yes” or “no” and it has a lot of confusion around it. The reason for this is that laws are constantly changing and they also change from country to country and even in different areas of certain countries.
In the USA you are allowed to fly your drone at night for recreation purposes, without having to do anything special. However, there are some rules you must follow according to the FAA, if you plan to fly your drone at night, such as:
- Following the local rules provided by the community, depending on the area you want to fly
- Fly your drone within visual line-of-sight
- You must inform the airport about flying your drone if you’re closer than 5 miles to it
- You can fly your drone, without a certificate unless it weighs 55 lbs. or less (otherwise you need to obtain a certificate)
- Fly for recreational, hobby purposes only
- You cannot fly your drones over open arenas or stadiums where concerts or sports events take place
- Your drone must have lights on it so that way you can maintain visual contact with your drone at all times.
As you can see, it’s possible and legally allowed to fly your recreational drone at night as long as you take into account these rules and are sure to follow them when flying.
Can I fly my drone at night for commercial purposes?
You can fly your drone at night for commercial purposes but in this case, you will need to obtain a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate. If you don’t want to do that then you can also have someone who has this certificate supervise you while flying your commercial drone at night.
How to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate
- You need to pass the aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center
- You need to be at least 16 years old
- Once you got your Remote Pilot Certificate, you have to apply for a Night Waiver from the FAA.
What is a Night Waiver?
A Night Waiver is an official document issued by the FAA that allows you to fly your non-recreational drone at night.
How long does a night waiver last?
A night waiver for flying a drone at night will last for 4 years.
What airspace can I fly my drone in with a night waiver?
The Night Waiver is good for all Class G airspace. You can also obtain a license for Class B, C, D or E as well For further information you can check out the FAA website to learn all about the variety of waivers that they offer.
5 Helpful tips to fly your drone at night
Visit the area during daylight.
It’s very important that you know the area where you plan to fly your drone at night. Try to always go to the same area in your city and ideally scout out the location during the day. If you are familiar with the place because you go there often and have seen it during the day many times that makes night flying much easier. It’s obviously quite hard to see things at night so it’s better to be aware of your surroundings ahead of time to more easily avoid possible accidents or crashes.
Fly above 100 feet
This step is recommended to follow to make sure you avoid any possible obstacles that may come your way if you fly your drone low. You will have to stay below 400 feet per FAA guidelines so don’t fly too high either.
Keep your drone in your line of sight
This is a rule set by the FAA mentioned above as well, but people tend to switch between looking at their physical drone and looking at their phone to see what the drone sees and can easily lose sight of their quadcopter. It is honestly easier to follow the lights of the drone at night as long as you are close to it so keeping it closer if you are planning on watching your phone screen as well will help.
Do not fully switch off your LEDs
If you’re using your drone at night to take beautiful shots with it from above, it may be annoying seeing a red glow on the photos. That is because the front LEDs on the drone are switched on. To make sure you get beautiful night shots, don’t forget to switch off only the front LEDs. Don’t switch off all of them or you will be in violation of the FAA guidelines.
Check your drone before taking off
Before every flight, there are some safety procedures you need to do, to make sure you will fly safely. Always check the batteries before taking off, make sure that they are fully charged. You should also calibrate its compass and check the propellers for any issues.
Following these 5 steps will ensure you have a safe flight without any unpleasant surprises occurring.
In this article, we discussed whether drones can fly at night or not, and talked about the legal conditions of flying them at night for recreational or commercial purposes and the differences between them.
If you own a drone for recreation and plan to fly it at night for the first time, please, make sure to follow the rules listed above at the beginning of the article.
If you have one for commercial purposes and want to fly it at night, you should also follow the rules and guidelines set by the FAA and make sure that you get waivers if needed as well.
Drones are fun and entertaining, and nowadays, they serve multiple purposes, such as photography, delivery or even fishing. It’s important to be aware of the rules provided by your local area and the FAA (if in the USA) for safe flying.