Flying drones during and after twilight require not just a waiver from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) but also some good anti-collision lights. Most drones already have in-built lighting systems but they do not suffice and are hardly visible from a distance. The FAA has even listed specific requirements for anti-collision lights. Given below are some of the best ones on the market.
The different types of drone lighting
There are 2 types of drone lightings- Navigation and Anti-Collision. The latter is mandatory during and after twilight. However, navigation lights are purely optional.
Anti-Collision Lights: These are inconsistent strobing (blinking) lights that help manned/unmanned aircraft and people identify the drone during the night. The FAA mandates that the anti-collision lighting is visible from at least 3 statute miles while strobing at a frequency of 40-100 times per minute.
Navigational Lights: These lights are constant (non-blinking) meant for the purpose of focussing on the path ahead or a particular object. This is useful for maneuvering in compact environments, photography, and surveillance. However, a lot of top-end drones are equipped with night modes and adequate obstacle avoidance systems to compensate for the lack of lighting. Thus, this accessory remains optional.
Do you require anti-collision lights for your drone?
There are 4 basic time zones in accordance with drone flights. Daylight, civil morning twilight, civil evening twilight, and night. Daylight lasts from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Morning and evening twilights take place for the duration of 30 minutes before and after daylight respectively. The duration between the two twilights is categorized as night and flying during the night requires a Part 107 ‘Daylight Waiver’. The FAA has proposed a new set of rules that will make flying during night legal. However, until it is implemented, drone pilots can obtain a waiver through this quick and easy process.
Based on these time zones, the FAA wants you to compulsorily have anti-collision lights on your drone during both the twilights and night. You can choose to opt for navigational lights along with your anti-collision lighting but the latter is irrevocable while flying in the dark. Anti-collision lighting is not required by the day but is a safer option to choose if your drone is flying under low visibility (cloud, smog, mist, etc.). You can find out the timezone of your desired location through this calculator (here).
An exception might be that your drone already comes with an in-built anti-collision lighting system. Therefore, it is important to know the specification of the drone’s lighting beforehand. As mentioned above, the lighting must comply with the stated visibility and frequency requirements. If it does, then you do not need to install an external lighting system.
Note: Although most lighting systems are lightweight, it is better to keep the combined payload of the light and the drone in check with the regulations. Also, you must keep in mind the power source of the anti-collision lights. If the lights connect to your drone’s batteries, it might affect your flight time. Thus, flight planning must be done accordingly.
Best Anti-Collision lights for drones
1. Ulanzi DR-01
Ulanzi’s DR-01 strobe lights provide the perfect anti-collision solution without breaking the bank. They provide a 250mAh battery pack that has type-c charging. It can be mounted using 3M adhesive tape.
- FAA compliant
- 3 different colors
- 9 lighting modes
- Weight: 14 grams
- Water resistant
- 20-hours of continuous operation
You can buy the Ulanzi anti-collision strobe light here.
Strobe by LumeCube
This is one of the best anti-collision lightings for drones on the market. It provides 360-degree visibility and is immensely lightweight. It has been specifically designed for commercial drone pilots. It can be mounted using 3M adhesive tape.
- FAA Compliant
- Weight: 10 grams
- Three light modes
- Micro-USB charging
Buy the Strobe by LumeCube here.
3. ARC by Firehouse Technologies
Firehouse technologies provide the lightest anti-collision lights on this list. With mid-range pricing, it is a go-to option for pilots looking for a lightweight option. It can be mounted using 3M adhesive tape.
- FAA compliant
- Weight: 6 grams
- 6+ hour runtime
- No wiring required.
Get the ARC light here.
The LitraTorch 2.0 Drone Edition is one of the brightest lighting solutions. They can act as both navigation and strobe lights for your drone. They are mounted via 1/4-20 standard camera mounts, GoPro mount, or a belt clip.
- FAA compliant
- Three brightness settings (800,450,100 lumen)
- Three light settings
- Weight: 90 grams.
Get the LitraTorch 2.0 here.
The installation of strobe lights is fairly simple and hassle-free. With these best-budget picks, night flying can be made seamless and FAA compliant.