Do-Drones-Have-Lights

Do Drones Have Lights?

Over the years, various technological advancements have helped UAVs evolve beyond their military applications to become an indispensable tool across almost every sector. Among the many components that make up these amazing flying robots, lights play a crucial role. 

They don’t just add that cool aesthetic appeal to your drone, but creative professionals can utilize drone lighting for photography.

Apart from having drone lighting for safety, it also facilitates navigation in low-light or poor-visibility conditions and FAA compilation under Part 107.

So the question do drones have lights? The simple answer is yes. As someone who is drone fanatic I would give you my insight into this question as I explore these strobing drone lights in detail, covering their types, benefits, and factors to consider while choosing them. Plus, I’ll also talk about some popular drones with lights. 

So, let’s get started. 

Types of Lights on Drones – An Overview

Types of Lights on Drones – An Overview

I’m not saying constellations aren’t mesmerizing, but being a drone lover, what’s more enthralling to me is their intricate choreography of lights at night. Just observe a drone after sunset, and you’ll see how these bright lights paint the dull night sky with colorful LEDs. 

These drone lights are of different types, each designed for a specific function to ensure safe and efficient operation, as I discuss below: 

Anti-Collision Lights

Anti-collision lights, as the name implies, are the ones that help you maintain your drone’s visibility when flying beyond daylight. These lights are mandatory per the FAA’s drone lighting regulations, which states that:  

No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during periods of civil twilight unless the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles that has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision.

The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of, but may not extinguish, the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so.

Although the flash rate isn’t mentioned, I discovered it to be 40-100 cycles per minute for better visibility. 

Talking about the color of these anti-collision lights, they are typically white, but red variants are also available to reduce glare. Green anti-collision lights are non-FAA compliant. Remember this! 

Some popular anti-collision lights that I personally use on my DJI drones are TopSun Cree, TopSun Dome, and VIFLY Strobe. All these drone lights are super economical, bright, and compatible with most models. 

Navigation Lights

Although the FAA doesn’t mandate navigation lights on drones flying after daylight, I highly recommend having them. They will help you confidently navigate the night sky, avoiding collisions with obstacles. 

Mini aircraft with navigation lights usually feature a red light on the left and a green light on the right. This isn’t necessary, though. Many pilots follow other standards that suit them best. 

Note: Navigation lights are non-strobing in nature. 

My Autel Robotics EVO II houses a set of red and green navigation lights on its front arms, in addition to a white anti-collision light at the back to comply with the FAA flying rules. 

Landing Lights

Next, let’s discuss landing lights. 

These lights are again non-strobing in nature, positioned as such to illuminate the ground during take-off and landing.

This helps you judge the distance to the ground, spot obstacles, and ensure a smooth and controlled landing of your quadcopter, especially in low-light conditions like twilight or nighttime. Drone landing lights are mostly bright white to ensure sufficient visibility. 

Status Indicator Lights

High-end drone models come with built-in status indicator lights. Their primary purpose is to help you with real-time feedback regarding your drone’s operation—for example, GPS Lock, battery level, flight mode, signal strength, and much more. 

Tip: Assume these status indicator lights as your car’s dashboard lights. 

There isn’t any defined color code for status indicator lights, but I’ve mostly come across a green light for a strong GPS signal, red for a low battery, and so on. 

Error Indicator Lights

Your drone is just an electronic device and, thus, prone to unprecedented issues. 

This is where error indicator lights come into the picture to alert you to potential aircraft malfunctions, preventing accidents, crashes, and damages.

These may include compass calibration errors, motor issues, voltage fluctuations, or communication problems.  

Similar to status indicator lights, the color code of error indicator lights varies with drone models. So, please refer to your user manual to understand what each signal means. 

Infrared Lights

Drones carrying night-vision or low-light cameras are equipped with infrared (IR) lights, which produce light in the infrared spectrum, around 850 nm. Then, special cameras capture these radiations to “see” in conditions where the conventional light sources are unfit. 

IR lights find applications in night vision detection, surveillance, security, wildlife observation, and search & rescue operations. 

Top Benefits of Lights on Drones

Top Benefits of Lights on Drones

Let me now explain the top benefits of drone lights. 

Better Access to Difficult Areas

Drones are undoubtedly the best alternative to helicopters when it comes to accessing remote, rugged, or difficult-to-reach areas, such as mountainous terrains, dense forests or even seeing through walls.

Adding lights to these unmanned aircraft further assists the pilot in safely navigating through such sites, aiding their visibility and ensuring safe operation. This way, the pilot need not worry about low-light or poor visibility conditions. 

Search & Rescue

Drones with built-in lighting systems also help the search and rescue team mitigate the potential downtime and overcome the challenges posed by dim light or night.

As a result, the team can locate, monitor, and assess a concerned situation more effectively. Also, collecting the required data from the affected location becomes easy. 

Disaster Relief

In the case of disasters like floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes, drones with lights assist the officials in continuing with their relief operations without worrying about low-light or nighttime conditions.

Such drones also prove helpful for aerial surveys to assess the damage using clear video footage and locate survivors around the clock. 

Take the example of DJI Phantom 4 RTK. It’s known for its high-resolution imaging capabilities, perfect for mapping and surveying disaster-stricken areas. 

Fire Fighting

The biggest challenge firefighters face in any fire-related accident is seeing through the smoke or in extreme dark conditions, both inside and outside. Here, drones with lights help them in many ways. 

Let me explain. 

UAVs with lights provide firefighters with the required aerial support after daylight hours. They illuminate the affected area, allowing the firefighters to assess the situation, track the fire’s source, and identify potential hazards.

This real-time assessment helps the fire department personnel prepare strategies to protect life and property from further damage. 

Factors to Consider While Choosing the Right Drone Lights

Factors to Consider While Choosing the Right Drone Lights

Below are some important factors to consider while choosing the right drone lights: 

Versatility 

Versatile drone lights are the best bet for your money. Let’s understand this through an example. Suppose you’re planning to install navigational lights on your quadcopter. But now, you found that it lacks anti-collision lights, too. 

In this scenario, a light system that functions as both is a better deal. Isn’t it? 

One of my friends uses this Lume Cube Strobe on his DJI Air 3 and is pretty satisfied with the performance. These lights are compatible with every drone in the market, weatherproof, FAA-compliant, and ultralight. 

Sturdiness

When looking for drone lights, the cost is one factor that I don’t pay much heed to. After all, you can’t buy any random LED light and use it. Instead, it’s always good to invest in the best lights that can withstand adverse weather and other extreme conditions instead of breaking down! 

Hence, check if the drone lights are rugged or sturdy enough. 

Weight

If you’ve read my article on “Can drones carry things,” you would know that the maximum payload capacity of a drone includes everything it carries, even the battery. The lights you’ll install on your drone will also count here. 

So, prioritize lightweight lights so they don’t affect your drone’s payload or performance in any way. This is especially true if your model has a limited load-carrying capacity, like the DJI Mini 2 SE

Mounting Style

Next comes the mounting style. I’m not expecting you to be a tech-savvy guy who will sneak inside the drone to install the lights.

Instead, you should look for lights that stick to its body using adhesive tape or customized mounting brackets (for bigger drones.) There are several other ways to mount drone lights, too. For example, magnetic attachments, clips, etc. 

Power

Most drone lights have two options to draw power: first, from their own built-in LiPo battery(s), or second, from the drone’s battery.

Whatever you decide to go with, ensure it doesn’t put an excess burden on your quadcopter’s weight, power, or performance. I don’t mind either of these options! 

Popular Drones With Lights

Popular Drones With Lights

Below is the list of some popular drones with lights: 

  • DJI Mini 3 Pro: It has built-in bright LED lights for night flying or illuminating dark areas. 
  • DJI Air 2S: This all-in-one professional drone comes with pre-installed landing lights and a spotlight for flying in the night sky. 
  • Parrot Anafi USA: This drone works best with the custom FoxFury D10 Parrot ANAFI USA Lighting System, which has both strobing and continuous light modes, a splash-proof design, and meets FAA standards. 

Conclusion

Here you go, peeps. A drone is a hefty investment, the major chunk of which goes to its accessories. But if there’s one right accessory that can make a world of difference in your drone flight, it’s the lights.

They not only create a safe passage for your drone by illuminating its surroundings, but also add a layer of visual appeal to your aerial shots. 

While many drones have them pre-installed, manually adding lights to a drone isn’t hard either. Just stick the light(s) to the drone’s body using adhesive tape or customized mounting brackets (for bigger drones), and it’s done.

This is particularly true for anti-collision lights that the FAA mandates for every drone, whether for recreational or commercial purposes. 

Do you have any other questions for me regarding drone lights? If yes, feel free to connect with me for their answers.

Till then, happy flying! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What Color Lights Do Police Drones Have? 

A: Usually, you’ll spot red and blue color lights on police drones, similar to police cars. This lets people identify it as a law enforcement vehicle and stay away from it.

In addition, night-flying police UAVs may also house white lights for search and rescue operations at night. 

Q: What Color Lights Do Drones Have at Night?

A: According to the FAA drone lighting guidelines, they must have an anti-collision light system visible from 3 statute miles away. A 40-100 cycles per minute strobing rate is also a must. 

Q: What Is the Green Light on Drone at Night?

A: If you’re wondering what’s that flashy green light on the drone flying over you, it’s typically a navigation light. It helps the pilot determine the drone’s path, especially when it’s far away.

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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