Do Drones Have Red Lights?


Do Drones Have Red Lights?

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An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) (or uncrewed aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone and rarely as an uninhabited aerial vehicle or unoccupied aerial vehicle) is an aircraft without a human pilot on board and a type of unmanned vehicle. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS); which include a UAV, a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two. The flight of UAVs may operate with various degrees of autonomy: either under remote control by a human operator, autonomously by onboard computers  or piloted by an autonomous robot.

Compared to crewed aircraft, UAVs were originally used for missions too “dull, dirty or dangerous” for humans. While they originated mostly in military applications, their use is rapidly expanding to commercial, scientific, recreational, agricultural, and other applications  such as policing and surveillance, product deliveries, aerial photography, infrastructure inspections, smuggling  and drone racing. Civilian UAVs now vastly outnumber military UAVs, with estimates of over a million sold by 2015.

So do drones have red lights?

There are anti-collision lights and navigation lights on most drones. The anti-collision lights are normally red or white in color and either blink or are solid. The navigation lights are either red or green and indicate the side of the drone.

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If you would like to know more about drones that have red lights, please keep reading and check out this video!

Air Traffic

UAVs can threaten airspace security in numerous ways, including unintentional collisions or other interference with other aircraft, deliberate attacks or by distracting pilots or flight controllers. The first incident of a drone-airplane collision occurred in mid-October 2017 in Quebec City, Canada. The first recorded instance of a drone collision with a hot air balloon occurred on 10 August 2018 in Driggs, Idaho, United States.

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Although there was no significant damage to the balloon nor any injuries to its 3 occupants, the balloon pilot reported the incident to the NTSB, stating that “I hope this incident helps create a conversation of respect for nature, the airspace, and rules and regulations”. In recent events UAVs are flying into or near airports shutting them down for long periods of time.

Types Of Lights

You should know that not all strobe or blinking lights on drones are anti-collision lights. Some of these lights might be confusing to some people. They are either anti-collision lights or navigation lights. Anti-collision lights are also known by some as the strobe lights. They are a set of lights that are required on every aircraft to improve its visibility to other aircraft as well as signaling towers. These lights are usually located at the top and bottom of the fuselage, wingtips and tail tips. These locations are the best to avoid a collision from any other objects that are flying in the sky. 

You can fly without an anti-collision light but it will be at your own risk. Federal Aviation and Administration usually requires specific lights before you are fully authorized to fly a drone. Anti-collision lights are red and white that might be blinking or solid. One the other hand, navigation lights are known as the running or position lights. It gives you the information on an aircraft position, where it is headed and its status.

It is either red and green sidelights that are visible from a distance of at least two miles away. These lights are easier to see during night time. These colors will indicate the vessel’s port which is on the left side and green indicate the vessel’s starboard which is on the right side. These lights must be turned on between sunset and sunrise during all operations of the flight. You may use them at daylight whenever you are experiencing bad weather, but it is not required by law. 

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Reasons For Lights

  • Helps to see drone better

There are drones with equipped navigation and anti-collision lights. Some drones do not have these features. However, you can always put some lights on your drone to serve as their anti-collision or navigation lights. During the day time, it is ok not to have those lights since you can see them anyway, but at night time they are required. You can barely see the lights because of the darkness, but it is still better than no lights at all. Here comes the importance of having such lights, it can illuminate your drones properly and can give information about your flight from where you are headed to your positioning. Using lights, your drone can be seen clearly and can be easily avoided by other flying devices.

  • Required for civil twilight flying

According to the section 107.29 of daylight operation, no person is allowed to fly any small unmanned aircraft during civil twilight unless the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting that should be visible at least 3 statute miles. The intensity of the anti-collision light might be reduced unless pilots find it determinable. To fly drones at night, you must first secure a night waiver to operate. One of its requirements is that drones must have anti-collision light that is visible with the same distance in flying drones at twilight. A night waiver, if you are lucky enough to obtain one, can last up to four years.

  • Some other part of the law requires them

There are other waivers that you can choose from. A night waiver, reduced visibility waiver, and beyond line of sight waivers are other waivers that also need or require anti-collision lights. This is the safest method of helping other aircraft to see your drone flying. However, before trying to obtain all of these waivers or even one of these waivers, you need to make sure to obtain good quality anti-collision lights that are visible from 3 statute miles. 

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You can use both navigation and anti-collision lights on your drone, by simply placing them in their proper location so there will be no misunderstanding. You can also use more than one of each type of light  as long as you place them correctly. You may also use multicolor lights on the same drone.

Definition Of Drone Lights

During daylight, twilight and night, when does Federal Aviation and Administration require you to use drone lights? Well, the first thing we need to do is we need to properly differentiate these times of the day. Daylight was defined as the 30 minutes after official sunrise at a local time. Twilight is defined by either evening civil twilight or morning twilight. Morning civil twilight is the starting one hour before sunrise and ending about a half-hour before sunrise.

On the other hand, evening civil twilight is when it is about half an hour after sunset and ending one hour after sunset. Lastly, the night is defined as the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight. Anti-collision lighting is not required to be used during daylight. During either twilight, drone pilots are required to use anti-collision lights while at night, they are required to have anti-collision lights and a part 107 waiver.

Conclusion

These lights are tremendously important and you need to make sure that these lights are always working correctly. These lights give information to other aircrafts so they can see and avoid them if they are too close to your drone. There is even a communication failure. One of these examples is the DJI Phantom that mistakenly placed its navigation green lights on the back which is not in the proper place although it is allowed. They should be placed in the front right and back right. No matter what drone you have, you should always make sure that the lights are working and operational every night. 

Matt Robbs

I love to spend time with my wife and 3 kids. There is no better way to get them off the couch and outside than for us to grab the RC cars or boat and enjoy the sunshine!

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