Can you fly a drone at night? This question might cover two aspects as you might agree with me. 1st one is, can a drone fly at night? and the second one can be if it’s legal to fly a drone at night? Well, today I am going to explain this thing to you in a detailed manner.
Why Fly Drone at Night?
There can be many reasons behind flying a drone at night and you might have one of those. Some people are interested in doing it just for fun on a clear and windless night. A colorful and lighting drone would also look beautiful and charming flying at night. You might also be interested in taking some memorable night shots from your drone camera.
You might be a professional photographer and need to take wedding shots at a ceremony at night. A sports event can also bring the need to have some great photography of the event at night. Another thing that you might need a night flight of drone would be if you are a real estate photographer. Customers might ask you to capture the night view of the property under sale.
We know that if you are in such business then it’s crucial for you to fly drones at night. If businesses won’t be able to perform such tasks then they might suffer financially. Your clients are not interested in your excuses and they only would prefer such professional photographers who go the extra mile according to their exact needs.
After all this, I know you must be a drone lover or professional photographer and won’t be willing to compromise on your drone’s night flights. But here are some of the things you should get familiar with and keep in mind while flying a drone at night.
The Technical Side
Now let’s come to the first part of the question; it’s possible that you can fly a drone at night but it takes some extra skills. You need to be very skilled at flying drones as the night flight is much different than a day flight for a drone. There is also a crucial technological point involved in this situation.
Normally, if your drone has a GPS system then it would be very fine for your drone to fly at night. In case it has no GPS, then there is a need for some signal, I mean it can be a light. So if your drone has anything out of these two basic technological aspects, then it’s good to go.
Another technological aspect can be the camera of the drone. I think you would need to compromise on the pictures and video quality in case you want to fly it in the dark and not have a quality camera.
Can You Fly a Drone at Night? (Legal Side: CFR PART 107.29)
Now let us come to the legal side of your question of can you fly a drone at night. Well, this might be something disappointing to you as the law is somewhat straightforward and strict in the USA. The FAA would need to know the procedure and how it will be done safely by you. Well, if you have planned to fly the drone at night, then it means explaining when it’s dark outside, how you will maintain a visual line of sight?
The main argument behind allowing or not allowing the drone to fly at night is the safety aspect. For example, How will you avoid hitting the dark structures? You’ve stopping sensors on the drone, but because they can’t see at night, they don’t work. You must agree with me that it’s totally different to fly a drone in daylight compared to in dark. To solve this issue, some companies have come up with anti-collision LED lights in their drones. This might be somewhat helpful to maintain the safety point of view.
But there are others who argue against the lights as well. People who have seen such lights at night reported that they were somewhat in panic after seeing some strange lights in the sky. People are also concerned about their privacy when it comes to fly drones at night. These lights might be embarrassing to them and they might feel uncomfortable. Above all, flying drones at night are against part 107 regulations.
Part 107.29 is the Daylight Activity Regulation. It is stated as “No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during the night.” This might be disappointing and seems final but there are some exceptions and way out. So you need not worry or disappoint a lot. The part 107 also states that you can fly a drone during the day and there are some time restrictions involved during the sunset and dawn time.
Let me explain the day time or daylight limitation to you. The part 107 states that it’s allowed to fly a drone 30 minutes before the official sunrise and 30 minutes after the official sunset. And it also states that if you want to fly during 30 minutes of civil twilight, you need to have lights that are visible from a distance of at least 3 miles.
Looking at the business needs of the photographers the FAA has developed a waiver system. The FAA has a system where a pilot is able to apply for a waiver that might lift up such regulations in special conditions. Among other items, a commercial drone pilot might ask for a waiver to waive the rule against flying at night.
So how one can avail the waiver if they are licensed, drone pilots? Well, if you are already a drone pilot certified under Part 107, all you need to do is visit the DroneZone page of the FAA and submit your waiver request. You would need to deliver the descriptions of all the relevant activities and possible risks involved. I would recommend you to be very descriptive and detailed while you are applying for the waiver. You should describe as many details as possible when you are applying.
Try to include every detail about your operations and what the drones are capable of doing. Mention each and every detail about the drone you would fly at night. The GPS factor, the LED lights, security and safety features, etc. Adding such details would increase the chances of your waiver approval and also add credibility to the application.
The Good News for You
Well, I have a piece of good news for you! If you are a fun pilot of your personal drone and not a professional one. And you just use a drone as a fun and not have any professional drone pilot license, then you need not worry about the above-mentioned regulations. If you are just a casual photographer and love to take pictures for personal use at night then you are good to go with it.
But you must also keep in mind that there is a slight difference between a fun flight and commercial flying of drones at night. If you have taken some quality pictures at night and someone liked it, they might be interested in buying them. In this case, there might be some issue later if you are caught somehow, somewhere during all this adventure. So keep this thing in mind when you are thinking about flying drones at night.