Ultimate Guide to Drone Anti-Collision Lights (2018)


drone-anti-collision-lights

Are you searching for a drone anti-collision light?

 

There are some great benefits to using a drone anti-collision light for recreational, public safety, and commercial operations.  It increases safety and gives you greater flexibility in your operations. Remember to go over the list of tips and considerations before you buy anything because each drone anti-collision light has its own strengths and weaknesses.

 

Table of Contents:

 

Why Drone Anti-Collision Lights?

So you might be saying to yourself, “Hey, why would I need some anti-collision lights for my drone? I already have lights on my drone!”

 

1. Helps you, and others, see the drone better. Yes, you might have some built-in drone lights but typically they are almost invisible during the day and not that bright during the night. This is where drone anti-collision lights come in help you and others see the drone during the day and night.

 

Remember that lights don’t solve all your night operational problems. What good are these lights if you don’t have training on how to fly at night? If you are looking at training for night operations, there is a Night Operations Video Course over at Rupprecht Drones that covers the night visual illusions and their remedies, physiological conditions which may degrade night vision, proper nighttime scanning techniques, and discusses more on aircraft lighting and considerations on how to mount the lights.

 

2. Required under Part 107 for civil twilight flying. Section 107.29 allows remote pilots to fly during civil twilight (twice daily: starting 30 minutes before sunrise to sunrise & sunset to 30 minutes after sunset). The big point is that the drone anti-collision lights must be visible for 3 statute miles or greater. There is a good chance your wimpy built-in drone anti-collision lights won’t cut it.

 

3. Some of the Part 107 waivers require them. The night waiver, reduced visibility, and beyond line of sight waivers typically use drone anti-collision lights as a method of helping other aircraft to see your drone flying. If you are planning on operating under one of these waivers, you should think about obtaining some good anti-collision lights visible for 3 statute miles or more. If you are wanting to learn more about Part 107 night waivers for your public safety or commercial operation, I have an entire article on this topic. If you are interested in obtaining a night waiver, contact me. I have over 90 night waiver approvals.

 

 

What are Drone Anti-Collision Lights?

Not everything is an anti-collision light. This is where everyone gets confused.

 

Anti-collision lights are (1) red or white and (2) blinking/strobing.

Navigation lights are: (1) red, green, and white and (2) solid. Here is a picture from the Rupprecht Drones Night Operations Video Course that visually explains navigation lights on manned aircraft.

drone-navigation-lights

This is extremely important because you need to make sure your lights communicate accurate information to other aircraft so they can see and avoid your drone. There are lights being sold out there in blue, yellow, etc. but these colors do not mean anything to other aircraft. 

 

One great example of a light communications failure is your DJI Phantom which totally fails at having navigation lights. (e.g. the green lights should not be on the back but the front right and back right.)

 

In addition to the colors, the drone anti-collision light needs to be blinking/strobing.

 

So am I stuck putting only one light on my drone?

No, you could put on multiple drone anti-collision lights!  You could have a blinking red one and a blinking white one to increase the visibility of your aircraft!

 

Additionally, you could also equip your aircraft with navigation lights which can be used for orientation.   Section 107.31 says the remote pilot in command: “must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to: (1) Know the unmanned aircraft’s location;  (2) Determine the unmanned aircraft’s attitude, altitude, and direction of flight[.]” Some of these drone lights can be purchased in different colors such as green and red and used as navigation lights. Some of the drone anti-collision lights on the market have the ability to change their patterns (blinking, strobe, or solid). This means if you have a red anti-collision light and can change the pattern to solid, you now have a red navigation light for the left hand side of your aircraft.

 

What Types of Drone Anti-Collision Lights Are There?

They are either portable or built in. Most modern day drones have built in drone anti-collision lights. There are some after market lights that can mounted through different methods (3M tape, straps, special mount, etc.) and they are powered with either LIPO batteries or some type of disposable battery (alkaline or lead/acid).

 

 

Drone Anti-Collision Light Tips/Considerations:

1. How many lights do you need? Some aircraft shapes don’t work so well. You might need to have 2 or more lights to ensure that light is being spread out.

 

2. How omni-directional is the light? You want a light that spreads the light and not just some directional light like the Lume Cube.

 

3. Are you planning on also outfitting your drone with navigation lights? Maybe consider purchasing a drone anti-collision light that is capable of being solid or a strobe in case you have a light failure. This way if your red drone anti-collision light fails or runs out of battery power, you could change the red solid light to a red strobe to act as the drone anti-collision light. It’s a backup.

 

4. Are you flying in the rain, snow, fog, etc.?  Your DJI Matrice might be waterproof but are your drone anti-collision lights? Some of these drone anti-collision lights are NOT water resistant. Some are waterproof and some water resistant. You might need a few drone anti-collision lights in your tool box to complete the mission.

 

5. Red or white?  A red LED does not mess up your night vision like a white light does but a white light is wayyyy more visible. One cool trick is if you can make your red strobe go a solid red, you can then use it like a flash light. Might come in handy if ya dropped something and need to find it. :)

 

6. How long are you planning on operating these things for? Some options have options to draw from the power of the drone while some of the portable ones are LIPO batteries that have to be recharged. Yes, they are LEDs so their run time can be for a long time and they are low cost enough so you could always keep a second one in your bag. One anti-collision light uses 2 alkaline acid AA batteries.

 

7. Consider the lifting capability of the aircraft. Some drone anti-collision lights are low weight while others weigh more. Keep this in mind as weight will always affect your flight times.

 

8. Are the lights visible for 3 statute miles or more? While recreational flyers do not have a 3 statute mile requirement, Part 107 flyers do. Make sure the manufacturer does say that the light is visible for 3 statute miles or more. If you want to take things one step further, maybe print the web page out that says the light is visible for 3 statute miles or more in case an FAA inspector or police officer asks.

 

9. Do you have to do anything else to make it operational? Some of the portable type of drone anti-collision lights are all self-contained while others you might have to wire in or buy a kit/mount to put them on the aircraft. Just compare below the Firehouse Technologies ARC with the North American Survival Systems DS-30.

Drone Anti-Collision Lights for Sale

Before we dive in, I want to say that I’m not being paid to write this. Aveo Engineering, ACR, and Firehouse Technologies were all kind enough to send me units to test out.

 

ACR Firefly Pro SOLAS

drone-anti-collision-light-ACR-fireflyThis light was not originally designed for drones. This is really an emergency distress strobe that is waterproof. I was looking for an all-weather drone anti-collision light to mount to a Matrice. This is important for fire departments (they do spray water everywhere), mountain rescue in the snow, search and rescue in the rain, etc. The light has been “Factory tested to 33 feet.” So I guess if you accidentally crash the drone in the lake, you might be able to find it blinking at the bottom and at least get your strobe light back.

 

The Firefly PRO Solas emergency strobe light boasts an all-new light output power management system that produces over 41 candelas of light per strobe for up to 56 hours of use (with AA lithium batteries). Using wide-light emission LEDs, it cuts through even the toughest conditions, creating a super-bright flash visible for over 3 miles.

 

As I said, it was not designed for drones so it is heavy compared to all other drone anti-collision lights because it uses two AA alkaline batteries. It weighs around 2.39 ounces.

 

It has solid, strobe, and S-O-S morse code flashing. It is only white.

 

Aveo Engineering’s PicoMax Drone Anti-collision Light

drone-anti-collision-light-picomaxThis is a very elegant drone anti-collision light. This strobe comes in either red or white. There is a cover for the USB port which makes it somewhat water resistant. Additionally, there are two tunnels right through the middle of the light which allow you greater flexibility to mount it to the aircraft with some type of bungee cord or string.  If you don’t like that, you can always do the 3M tape underneath.

 

Aveo’s website says:

Battery operated with DC adapter recharging, the PicoMax™ will strobe for longer than your drone flies on its charge. Exceeding the 2 nautical mile standard, the PicoMax™ actually surpasses 3 nm, and due to its proprietary Aveo firmware and circuitry it offers the brightest and fully airworthy tested features for the serious drone operator.

 

One thing to keep in mind when storing this is to make sure the button can’t be pressed or you’ll find out your light is dead when you go to operate it. There isn’t like a cover or cap to protect the button from being pushed.

 

Survival Systems DS-30 Strobe

This is a popular strobe. This strobe using a 9 volt battery is weaker than the Picomax or Firehouse Technologies ARC lights. I don’t know the brightness if a 11 volt 3S battery is used. The reason I bring this up is I know some of the small add on kits/mounts for the DS-30 use the a lead/acid 9 volt.

 

Firehouse Technologies ARC

These strobes are becoming very popular because they are low cost, you can mount them almost anywhere with the 3M tape, and they are very bright. Everything you need to charge and mount comes in the kit.

 

It now features 4 cree lights in one unit and a new improved interface with 3 lighting modes, Strobe, Flash, and a fixed (solid) mode. We also have a charge indicator. Its available in White, Red, Green Or Blue or Tri Color please scroll down to see color drop down menu when ordering.

 

Keep in mind that these are not waterproof or really resistant. (Maybe you could spray some of that water repellent sealer on it?) The plastic wrapping on the edges is open so dirt and water can get in through the sides. Additionally, with wear and tear, the plastic will tear and you might have to fix things with clear tape.

 

Further Reading:

How to Fly Your Drone at Night-(Part 107 Night Waiver)

Rupprecht Drones Night Operations Video Course (Designed for the Part 107 Night Waiver).

 

Conclusion:

There are some great benefits to using a drone anti-collision light for recreational, public safety, and commercial operations.  It increases safety and gives you greater flexibility in your operations. Remember to go over the list of tips and considerations before you buy anything because each drone anti-collision light has its own strengths and weaknesses.

 

What good are these lights if you don’t have training on how to fly at night? If you are looking at training for night operations, there is a Night Operations Video Course over at Rupprecht Drones that covers the night visual illusions and their remedies, physiological conditions which may degrade night vision, proper nighttime scanning techniques, and discusses more on aircraft lighting and considerations on how to mount the lights.

 

If you are wanting to learn more about Part 107 night waivers for your public safety or commercial operation, I have an entire article on this topic. If you are interested in obtaining a night waiver, contact me. I have over 90 night waiver approvals.