For me, Twilight is some of the best time to shoot video and photographs with my drone. This 30-minutes before and 30-minutes after sunrise or sunset is often referred to as golden hour. The light often has a golden hue and is much softer and pastel-like. So how can you fly legally during that time? You are already able to fly from sunrise and sunset but to fly the 30-minutes before sunrise and 30-minutes after sunset you need to have anti-collision lighting on your drone. This lighting is designed so full-sized aircraft can more easily see you. The lights must be visible for 3 statute miles (SM).
As an FAA Part 107 Pilot, there are a set of rules that you are required to follow to maintain your certificate. One of those is flying at Twilight. The FAA’s 14 CRF 107.29 Daylight Operation says:
(a) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during night.
(b) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during periods of civil twilight unless the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so.
(c) For purposes of paragraph (b) of this section, civil twilight refers to the following:
(1) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise;
(2) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset; and
(3) In Alaska, the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac.
Flying at Twilight
I found a vendor, Firehouse Technologies, that states its lights meet the FAA 3 statute miles requirement. The lights I purchased are the ARC 2- Pack Drone LED Strobe Light here. I went with the brighter 4-LED version because I wanted to use it in daylight as well as Twilight. I also wanted the 6 hours continuous operation in strobe mode versus 2 hours of continuous operation for the dual LED version. The 2-LED version here.
From the Firehouse Technologies website:
Meets the FAA 107 rule for strobes during night or twilight flights
ARC 2 specs:
- 6 hours in strobe mode of continuous operation with onboard battery.
- Powerful 5W LED
- No Cabling required
- Easy to use single button interface.
- Onboard battery status and charge indicator system.
- Compatible with all 5V MicroUSB cables and chargers.
- Battery with internal overcharge and discharge protection.
The ARC 2 with 4 LEDs
This is the built-in battery.
Next, I wanted a clean, easy way to mount them.
I located Aerial-Pixel (they now sell these on Etsy) and purchased a set of two of these mounts. The lights slide inside the holder and since they are made of a flexible material, they just slide over the arms, slip on, and stay in place.
The lights mounted on my drone
Flying with Lights in the Daytime
The last area I want to share with you is flying with these lights on during daylight flights. While the drone is visible line-of-site, the lights make it even easier to see as it gets further away. By pointing the lights on the left side down and the lights on the right side up, I can quickly tell if the drone is flying towards me or away from me based on which side the lights are blinking, as the downward pointing lights on the left side are the only ones visible.
Caveat: I am not a lawyer, so do your own investigation and make sure you are legal with whatever you buy. These lights appear to meet the 3 statute miles requirement based on the vendor’s claim. Feel free to contact them with any questions here.