Operating a Drone at night presents many exciting possibilities, but it is very dangerous and requires training, preparation and authorization. Make sure your clients are aware that flying at night presents more planning and expense, because you need more prep time and a qualified crew to accomplish night operations. Sometimes Night Operations aren’t even necessary. Often times better results can be achieved during civil twilight because the light is actually better. But if you’re asked to fly at night, here are some tips to help you achieve your mission.
1. Authorization from the FAA
The first thing you must do is obtain the 14 CFR 107.29 Daylight Operation waiver from the FAA. I know it’s an odd title because it’s for flying at night, but if you don’t have it you are operating a drone illegally and could be subject to fines and liability. The waiver requires you to have at least one visual observer and the crew being trained in Night Operations. I recommend taking the course that is offered by Drone attorney Jonathan Rupprecht.
It is pretty comprehensive and explains all of the challenges and dangers of flying a drone at night.
2. Day time Site Inspection
It’s very important before you fly at night to inspect the area during the day to check for obstacles, obstruction, hazards, etc. It’s also a time to establish your launch point(s) and flight paths. One of the big things to look out for is where are all of the wires over head. Often times the cannot be seen well at night if at all, so you need to know where they are during the day.
3. Anti collision Lights
One of the requirements to 107.29 is having anti collision lighting for your drone. Anti collision lighting is not the same as the green and red lights that are already on your drone. Anti collision lights can be seen from 3 miles away. This is to help air craft see your drone and avoid collision. I use the Aveo Pico Max that I purchased from Aircraft Spruce. It’s small, mounts easy and has good battery life.
4. Keep your moves close
I highly recommend not going crazy and doing fancy moves or flying to far away. As always with drone flying, stay within in your capabilities and comfort zone. Flying at night is a very different beast. Visibility is poor, depth perception is worse, if not non existent, and it’s easy to get disoriented. Even though you’ll have a visual observer with you, don’t take unnecessary risks.
5. Resist Temptation
Recently I was hired by a local municipality to shoot an event put on by the town.
It was very frustrating to see a couple of amateur drone operators flying drones recklessly violating several FAA regulations, while we were trying to safely do our job. I had to tell them that I was shooting for the town and that they had to stay clear of my area of operations. They did but still flew very recklessly. The point that I’m trying to make here is that even though other people are around you doing stupid things, stay focused on your mission and remember the responsibility you have to keep people, property and your equipment safe, so you can responsibly deliver a professional product to your client.