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We’ve all seen or operated one of the camera-carrying devices that hover over our heads to capture amazing images of landscapes and skylines. Drones resemble flying robots that are controlled from the ground or from computers.
Although you may hear stories on how drones are used to spy on people, they can be used in good ways such as security, scenery photography, and even mapping out territory.
Almost all drones have lights and they are required to have lights if they are going to be used at night (according to FAA regulations). Exactly what types of lights are required will depend on what type of light you are flying in (daylight, sunset, nighttime, dusk, or dawn).
The lights on a drone are various colors and each represents information to the pilot. Drones are typically very noisy and can be heard and seen from a good distance away as well.
Photography taken with a drone can capture breathtaking images. From an aerial view, you can view so much more than from the ground, making drone photography one of the new perspectives all controlled by you from ground level.
Since hobby drones have such advanced tech now (even when compared to a few years ago) with increased flight time and amazing cameras (that make pictures and even surveillance so much better) the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has had to step in and create laws and regulations about when and where a drone can be flown both recreationally as well as commercially.
To see the most popular drones currently available just click here.
Drone Light Laws
There are specific laws that the FAA has put into place in regard to using drones at night. Some specific laws about flying your drone at night are:
- Drones cannot be used during civil twilight without anti-collision lights (morning civil twilight is 30 minutes before the official sunrise or while nighttime civil twilight is when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon after the sunset)
- The drone’s lights must have a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision (they don’t have to be a strobe light).
- The drone’s lights must be seen from 3 statute miles away
All of these laws are in place to ensure drone detections are easy even in the dark or twilight hours. Drones can be equipped with a night vision camera that makes it easy for the user to see at night but the drone must also be visible to anyone else who might be flying at night.
For example, police use drones to see people who might possibly be breaking the law or to try and rescue someone who is in trouble. A drone pilot must be sure that their drone is visible so they don’t accidentally interfere with law enforcement or a police drone that might be flying in the area.
Since visibility is diminished so much at night it is vital that your drone follows all of the lighting laws to ensure that you are safe and also that you don’t get into trouble.
What Color Are The Lights On A Drone? What Do They Mean?
If you have ever seen a drone in action at night you know that they have lights on them. These lights are used to indicate different things on the robotic hovering device.
Drone lights provide important information for your flight. The lights can be red, green, white, and blue. A drone’s LED lights are used to display different information. Orange, yellow, and purple lights may be used for other purposes.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the colors of drone lights and what they could mean.
- Red lights on a drone may differ according to the model but usually mean that there are some problems or are indicating a warning such as the low battery, errors, Return Home Mode, Agility Mode, and zone or altitude warnings.
- Green lights represent the battery level with a solid green indicating a strong GPS connection or a flashing green indicating Smart Mode with GPS lock.
- Blue lights can mean Blind Mode, or Stability Mode with GPS lock and are usually flashing.
- White lights mean that the transmitter is off or Emergency Mode will be activated when started. It can also mean that the GPS is off or lost.
- Anti Collision lights are usually flashing but can also be solid and can be a variety of colors such as green, white, or red. Some drones offer customization in anti-collision lights and they are there for safety reasons.
- Navigation lights are a solid red, green, or white and don’t flash with changing colors. You can see these lights when the drone is in use.
- Orange/Yellow lights indicate compass calibration is required or that there is no GPS connection.
- Purple lights mean that the GPS is lost when the drone is in Return Home Mode or Follow Me Mode. It can also mean it is entering AP mode when these lights are flashing.
The navigation and Anti-collision lights of drones are better than the built-in lights and help you know where your drone is in the sky and help others to know that there is a drone nearby.
As you can see there are lights for every circumstance the drone is in and each has its own important purpose.
How Far Can A Drone See?
If a drone can see you then you can probably see it. Its lights and sound are a dead giveaway to its whereabouts.
However, some expensive drones can view objects from miles away, but these are normally used for an intended purpose such as mapping out land or for agriculture or farming.
It all depends on the kind of drone in regards to how far it can see.
A small toy drone can see about 20 to 100 yards. A mid-level drone can see for about .25 to 1.5 miles. High-end consumer drones have about 2.5 to 4.5 miles of view.
It is always a good idea to keep your drone in your sight You can see the drone when it is about 1,500 to 2,000 feet away, which is less than half a mile. Anti-collision lights are required to be used in morning/evening twilight and night but not during a day flight.
Long-range drones can travel 3-4 miles from the controller and must be operated by a licensed pilot. These drones are used for agriculture/farming, mapping territory, safety/security, package delivery, and even for recreational hobbies.
Drones that can view something from a great distance are going to cost a lot of money.
What Can Drones See At Night?
Drones used at night could be security drones for prisons or even used for delivering emergency medical equipment. Even if a drone was spying on someone it would have to be close to the subject and that subject would be able to hear and see the drone.
Drones flown at night have lights that can easily be spotted and they can record something clearly at 50-100 yards away.
You can see a drone at night from up to a mile away and at night it can see a person that is within 50 yards. Further away the object will be blurry. With night vision, the drone can see objects if they are in a well-lit area.
At ten feet away, a drone can clearly see inside a well-lit building but those indoors will be able to see and hear the drone. At forty feet away, the object is blurry but can be clearer with zooming in and better indoor lighting. Eighty feet away the drone can barely see what is going on inside and at one hundred and sixty-five feet away, it can’t see much at all.
Even though some drones are more expensive they still have a hard time viewing an object from a distance at night because of lighting and such.
It is best to always be careful and if you are uncomfortable with the presence of a drone and wonder if it is watching you, turn out the lights. If the drone’s camera is recording you, the red lights will be facing your direction and the green lights will be facing away from you.
Drones have a variety of colored lights on them for several different reasons and especially when operated at night. Drones can be used to capture some amazing images from high in the sky of beautiful landscape/water views and nighttime city skyline lights.
Drones can also be very enjoyable to operate.