How to Spot a Drone At Night: What to Know?

We see drones almost every day now, whether for fun or filming, commercial or leisure. As cool as these drones are, many learn how to spot drone at night from fear of being spied! From government conspiracies down to someone recording you without consent, there are numerous reasons why you need to stay aware.

It's easy spotting drones throughout the day, given the light and colors you can spot from the drone. But when night comes, drones become almost invisible and difficult to spot from the dark skies. Read on, I'll answer all the questions from "do drones have lights on them," down to military drones at night.

How to Spot a Drone At Night

how to spot a drone at night
Powie / Pixabay

So, what do drones look like at night anyway? If you've heard of locals claiming they've seen UFOs before, then they're most likely drones controlled by military services and federal agencies. When you look at pictures, these drones actually DO look similar to UFOs in the dark.

The only difference between before and today is that people are aware that what they see are, in fact, drones. You'll see that they have lights hovering or in one position, flying around according to the controller's preference. If they're closer to the ground, there might also be whirring noises that indicate the drone's operation.

What does a drone look like flying at night, though? It appears the same compared to daytime, just a bit difficult to spot. Again, there are lights to indicate that there's a drone flying around an area, and you can immediately identify its looks through its sound and lighting.

But is it safe and legal to fly your drone at night? Yes, it's completely legal to do so, you won't need a license for it.

However, you need to follow safety rules from the Federal Aviation Administration. Through following proper rules and tips on wrong flying, you won't have issues with law enforcement or break your drone!

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If you're wondering how to fly drones at night properly, I'll show you the tips and rules in the next section.

Safety Rules and Regulations For Flying Drones

what do drones look like at night
alles / Pixabay

Before anything else, these are the safety rules to fly your drones at night:

1. Drone flying should be for recreational use only

2. Always fly within visual line of sight to prevent losing signal and losing your drone

3. Make sure you follow community safety guidelines when flying your drone

4. Always give way to the manned aircraft if detected near you

5. Your drone shouldn't weigh over 55 pounds unless it was approved from community-based organizations

6. If you're flying five miles within the airport, let air traffic control and authorities know before you fly. This is because it can interfere with their signals, or your drone can get hit

Besides the safety rules from the FAA, here are more tips on flying drones at night safely:

Know Your Area 

You need to know the area you and your drone will stay in. Observe the area throughout the day and fly your drone while the sun's up. That way, you know what obstacles to avoid.

Be Aware Of the Drone's Surroundings

Make sure that you stay aware of the drone's surroundings to prevent any damage or accidents. Sometimes, we get too fixated in taking the perfect shot that we don't know where we're going or where the drone might hit! It's also important to know where you are and avoid going to sketchy areas.

Don't Use Your ND Filter

what does a drone look like flying at night
Pexels / Pixabay

The ND filter allows your drone to take clear and saturated images when you're shooting under the sun. You won't need it during the night as it cases dark shots or even accidents!

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Before you begin flying your drone, remove the filter or leave it at home if it's strictly for night use.

Fly Within a 300-Feet Altitude

You need to fly your drone at increased altitudes, about 300 feet. That way, it's safe to move your drone around without many obstacles from lower altitudes.

The 300 feet rule's actually a sweet spot for most drone users, as 400 feet is over the FAA standard limit. Furthermore, 200 feet might be too low because of trees and buildings present.

Switch On Your Drone's LED Lights

You'll rarely encounter a flying drone with its lights of during the night. It's crucial to switch them on so you can monitor your drone and know where it goes. But to take beautiful pictures, switch off its lights when taking photos and switch it on again afterward.

Will You Fly Your Drone For Commercial Purposes?

What if you'll use your drone for commercial purposes? While you won't need a license to fly it for recreational use, it's the different one you need it for work or the like. You'll need a license or a certificate to signify you're a remote pilot airman.

For those who don't have one yet, it's recommended that you do to use your drone during all times, including the night. Take note you'll need to be at least 16 years old when getting the license!

As for the certificate as a remote pilot airman, follow these ways:

1. Pass aeronautical knowledge tests which are given from testing centers the FAA authorizes.

2. Once you have a Part 61 pilot certificate, you'll need to undergo a flight test within two years after passing the knowledge test AND a UAS online training course the FAA runs.

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3. Once you've gotten your certificate, go apply for a night waiver in the FAA.

Wrapping It Up

Sometimes, it's difficult spotting drones flying around at night, but it gets easier with proper knowledge. By learning about federal regulations and what drones look like, you can identify if there's one hovering above you and your property.

I hope my article on how to spot a drone at night helped you out! So now that you know what a drone looks like at night, you can rest a bit easier.

If you have any questions or want to share your own experiences on how to spot a drone at night, then comment below. Your thoughts are much appreciated.

Stan D

Editor at
Stan is the editor at where we are passionate about all things Remote Control and especially Drones! We want you to know as much about them as possible before you buy and when you are getting used to them. There are a lot of questions about RC & drones and that's where we come in, to help you with relevant information.