Night-flying drones is an incredible, exhilarating experience, whether for broadcast, news-gathering, or just plain fun flight. However, night flight also carries with it some specific responsibilities and regulatory requirements.
For example, it is not legal for any commercial pilot to fly after civil twilight (approximately 30 minutes after sunset) without an FAA-granted waiver. Without training, the 107.29 waiver may be difficult to achieve.
Aside from the regulatory requirement for training or demonstration of training when applying/requesting a 107.29 waiver, there are standards for best-practices when flying UAS at night. Several of the most publicized and notorious drone incidents in the nation have occurred during night flight.
For example, the greatest “danger” to operations during night flight endeavors, is light pollution. Avoiding light pollution, or at the least minimizing light, ensures pilot’s eyes are in proper physiological condition for night flight ops.
Another concern during night-flight operations is hazards, and how difficult they are to observe, particularly during UAS flight
No off-the-shelf UAS offers adequate night lighting requirements, whether a 107 (Commercial) or hobbyist (AMA) operation. Lighting is required.
How does a pilot avoid polluting the eye with brightly lit aircraft?
Products such as the lighted launch/land pads from Hoodman, on-aircraft lighting systems from FoxFury, or HUD displays from Brother all assist in reducing risk/increasing safety in these environments.
There are manuals available that can help those interested to better understand these issues, and how to best avoid them, but nothing beats live-training with industry experts.
Think you are ready for your UAV training?
FMC and Sundance Media Group are organizing a practical, Night Flight UAV Field Workshop during NAB Show in Las Vegas. Attendees will not only learn the ins and outs of best practices for night flight, but also how to petition the FAA for a night flight waiver. Following the in-class training, attendees will be flying UAS in pitch-dark conditions with an instructor and airboss.
This is a rare experience, one any news-gathering, broadcast, production, or journalism professional or agency won’t want to miss.