Can Drones Fly at Night?
It is a question we see asked often. Can drones fly at night? Yes, but not as easily as during the day. This is due to both technological and regulatory challenges. From a strictly technological standpoint, the drones use GPS to navigate and recognize it’s position. This is not impacted by daylight, so assuming there is a clear view of the sky, your drone flies just fine.
What if you don’t have a clear view of the sky? Generally, it is not recommended that you fly inside, but for some people it is necessary. In that case drones use advanced sensors to position itself. So even without GPS drones fly accurately, but they need light.
So what happens if you’re inside and the lights are off? With neither GPS or light to see, the drone struggles; it reacquires at least one of the two. Luckily, if we’re talking night flights, we mean outside. Good GPS signal means your drone can operate safely in the dark. Here is a good video, describing the different aspects of night flying, including camera settings. Can You Fly a Drone At Night?
CFR Part 107.29
Legally, how can drones fly at night? The FAA wants you to describe your operation and how you’re going to perform it safely. In the case of flying at night, that means explaining how you’re going to maintain visual line of sight when it’s dark out. How are you going to avoid hitting structures in the dark? You have see and avoid sensors on the drone, but they don’t work since they can’t see at night.
Part 107.29 is the regulation that covers daylight operation. It states that “No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during night.” This might seem final, but the FAA has a system where a pilot can apply for a waiver to regulations like this. Once you submit your waiver, the FAA will consider it and come back with a final decision. The waiver process can be found here: Part 107 Waivers
Are you ready to fly at night?
There is more to flying at night than simply obtaining a waiver and a GPS signal. In order to prepare pilots for night time operations, we contract with designated FAA examiners. They teach our customers about the impacts of night time operations. Especially the way your eyes react to low light is an important factor to consider. There are added risks with night ops, so you should consider if this is something you really need. If you do decide to move forward, there are ways to operate safely and efficiently at night.
Reach out to the drone experts at CompassDrone for the training and hardware needed to safely operate at night. We can help you with the waiver process and get you certified to operate day and night.