How to Add Auxiliary Lighting to Drones 

When the sun goes down, capturing breathtaking aerial shots becomes increasingly challenging. That's where “how to add auxiliary lighting to drones” comes into play. When you need more than just natural light, what do you do?

In this article, I will share with you the answer to that question and guide you through the process of adding auxiliary lighting to drones.

Section 1

Auxiliary lighting: Common types (and purpose)

First, what is auxiliary lighting?

Auxiliary lighting, in the context of drones, refers to additional lighting systems that are added to a drone to:

Enhance its visibility,
Orientation, and
Performance…,

especially in low-light conditions.

What is the purpose of auxiliary lighting?

Auxiliary lights serve various purposes. They are beneficial for both recreational and professional drone uses.

Here are some common types (and purpose):

a. Navigation Lighting:

Drones, like any aircraft, require navigation lights to ensure visibility and adherence to aviation regulations. These lights are like those found on traditional aircraft, featuring red and green lights on the drone's wings or body.

They help indicate the orientation of the drone, making it easier for the pilot and others to determine its direction of movement, especially during dusk or dawn.

b. Anti-Collision/Strobe Lights Lighting:

To further increase the safety of drone operations, anti-collision or strobe lights are often employed. They are basically high-intensity, brief-duration lights that flash at regular intervals.

The intense bursts of light enhance the visibility of drones in low-light situations, making them more noticeable to other aircraft or nearby individuals.

They improve visibility and help in identifying the drone's position, which is particularly useful for maintaining situational awareness, especially in low-light or busy airspace.

c. Search and Rescue Lighting or Spotlights:

Spotlights are powerful directional lights mounted on the drone, allowing specific areas on the ground to be illuminated. Auxiliary lighting plays a crucial role in search and rescue missions, surveillance, and capturing of footage in dimly lit environments.

These lights enable search and rescue teams to efficiently locate missing individuals, illuminate accident or crime scenes, or provide essential lighting during emergency operations/hard-to-reach areas.

Drone lighting the ground with powerful auxiliary lights

d. Photography and Videography/Cinematography Lighting:

Drones equipped with auxiliary lighting for photography or videography purposes often feature additional lights to enhance image quality in low-light conditions. By utilizing auxiliary lighting of this kind, drone enthusiasts and professionals can capture stunning visual content.

How is this possible?
Adjustable LED lights with color temperature control can be mounted on drones, allowing photographers and cinematographers to manipulate the lighting conditions and create breathtaking images or videos even in challenging environments.

Such lighting not only enhances the subjects being captured but also adds depth, drama, and creative possibilities to aerial visuals.

e. Industrial and Agricultural Lighting:

In industries such as construction, drones with powerful lights enable inspectors to examine structures, conduct inspections, and identify potential issues in hard-to-see areas.

Similarly, in agriculture, drones can be equipped with specialized lighting systems, such as ultraviolet (UV) lights, to aid in plant health inspections, pest control, and crop monitoring.

This is how drones equipped with auxiliary lighting find utility in industrial and agricultural sectors!

Related article:

Section 2

Practical Suggestions For Adding Auxiliary Lighting

Number 1.
Clip-On LED Lights

Consider using clip-on LED lights that can be easily attached to the arms, body of the drone or camera mount itself. Look for lightweight and compact options to minimize any impact on flight performance.

Clever Tip:
LED lights come in the form of strips or circular lights. Experiment with different colors to create a mesmerizing aurora of lights as your drone soars gracefully through the dark.

Number 2.
Mounting Brackets or Adhesive Strips

Utilize mounting brackets or adhesive strips designed for drones.

These accessories provide secure attachment points for LED lights without causing damage to the drone's structure.

Number 3.
Custom 3D-Printed Accessories

For those with access to a 3D printer, consider designing and printing custom accessories that can hold LED lights in specific positions on your drone.

Number 4.
Flexible Light Strips

Opt for flexible LED light strips that can be cut to size and easily adhered to the drone's surface. These strips provide versatile lighting options and can be adjusted for different angles.

Number 5.
Removable Velcro Straps

Velcro straps with adhesive backing can be used to secure LED lights to the drone. They offer a secure attachment method while allowing for easy removal and repositioning.

Number 6.
Drone-Specific Lighting Kits

Explore specialized lighting kits designed for drones. These kits often come with purpose-built mounts and lights optimized for aerial photography and videography.

More specialized lighting kits designed for drones

Number 7.
Battery-Powered Lights

Opt for battery-powered LED lights to ensure they do not draw power from the drone's main battery, potentially affecting flight time.

Number 8.
Adjustable Angle Mounts

Look for mounts that allow you to adjust the angle of the attached lights. This flexibility can be crucial for achieving the desired lighting effects.

Example of a Tundra Drone Automoving Light ON DJI Mavic 3

Number 9.
Waterproof LED Lights

If you plan on flying your drone in damp or wet conditions, consider investing in waterproof LED lights to ensure they remain functional and safe.

Number 10.
Test for Balance and Stability

After attaching the lights, conduct a thorough balance and stability test to ensure they do not disrupt the drone's flight performance.

Related article:

Section 3

Optimizing the effectiveness of auxiliary lighting.
Optimizing auxiliary lighting for drones is crucial to ensuring improved visibility, safety, and the effectiveness of the lights in various conditions.

In this section, I provide some valuable tips on how to optimize auxiliary lighting, from understanding your lighting needs to regular maintenance.

Tip number 1.

Understand Your Lighting Needs:
Because different situations require different lighting setups, before choosing the right auxiliary lights, it is vital to understand your specific lighting needs. Take a moment to contemplate the purpose of the lighting and the desired effect you want to create.

For example, by asking these questions:

Am I looking for accent lighting to highlight artwork or architectural details? Or,

Do I need task lighting to improve visibility for specific activities?

By clearly defining your lighting needs, you can make informed decisions throughout the optimization process.

Tip number 2.

Choose the Right Lights:
Say you’ve got number 1 right – you have a clear understanding of your lighting need... It's time to choose the right auxiliary lights. Now consider factors such as brightness, color temperature, and beam angle while selecting lights. Think of it this way:

Brightness is measured in lumens and determines how intense the light output will be.

Color temperature refers to the warmth or coolness of the light, with warm tones resembling candlelight and cool tones resembling daylight.

Beam angle determines the spread of light and plays a vital role in highlighting specific areas or objects.

Highlight:
Choosing the right lights ensures you achieve the desired lighting effect efficiently.

Drone lighting up tree at night before photo shoot

Tip Number 3.

Balance Weight and Performance:
Heavy lights can put unnecessary strain on the mounting system or structure, leading to potential safety hazards. Therefore, while selecting auxiliary lights, it is essential to find the perfect balance between weight and performance.

Opt for lights that are lightweight and compact.
Do not compromise on the functionality of the lights.

Never compromise on performance to achieve lightweight options. Remember, the brightness and quality of light should not be compromised to ensure optimal illumination.

Tip number 4.

Comply with Regulations:
To ensure you avoid safety and legal repercussions, familiarize yourself with and comply with local building codes and regulations governing auxiliary lighting installations.

Regulations may include provisions on wiring, light output limits, energy efficiency requirements, and more.

The point here is that – you stay within the legal bounds...

This is one way of optimizing your auxiliary lighting without any complications.

Tip Number 5.

Position Lights Strategically:
The positioning of auxiliary lights can make or break the desired effect. Mount lights in positions that optimize visibility and orientation. Experiment with different angles to obtain the best lighting arrangement for your specific needs.

Adjust Light Angles
Lighting angles contribute greatly to the mood and ambiance of a scene. By manipulating the angle of your lights, you can emphasize specific features, create shadows for dramatic effect, or simply ensure an even distribution of light.

Highlight:
But at all costs, avoid obstructing sensors or the camera's field of view.
Navigation lights on wings and strobes on the body are common setups.
Think outside the box and consider using unique lighting setups that will truly enhance your subject.

Tip number 6.

Use Programmable Lights:
If possible, opt for lights with programmable features. Investing in programmable lights brings versatility and convenience to your lighting setup. This allows you to customize flash patterns, brightness levels, and colors based on your specific needs.

These smart lights allow you to adjust intensity, color temperature, and even sync them with other devices, saving valuable time during setup and ensuring consistent lighting across multiple shoots.

Tip Number 7.

Consider Battery Life:
Auxiliary lights can consume additional power, affecting overall flight time. To avoid unexpected power outages and interruptions, it is essential to consider the battery life of your auxiliary lights. Choose energy-efficient lights and be mindful of battery life during flights.

Opt for lights with long-lasting batteries or invest in additional batteries and charging solutions to ensure you are always ready to capture that perfect shot.

Highlight:

It is a waste batteries to turn on auxiliary LED lights of drones during the day

Tip number 8.

Integrate with Camera Systems:
If using lights for photography or videography, integrate them with your camera system for synchronized operation. Seamless integration between auxiliary lights and camera systems can considerably enhance shooting experience.

This can be achieved using wireless triggers, syncing technology, or other dedicated lighting control software. Synchronizing lights with camera settings enables real-time adjustments and precision control for captivating (high-quality images and video) products.

Tip Number 9.

Regular Maintenance:
Just like any other piece of equipment, auxiliary lights require regular maintenance to perform optimally. Inspect and maintain them regularly. Check for any damage, loose connections (integrity of cables), or issues that might affect their performance.

Clean the fixtures and replace any damaged components promptly. By keeping auxiliary lights in top condition through regular inspections and maintenance, unexpected surprises during crucial shoots can be avoided.

By carefully considering these nine tips and tailoring them to your specific drone and use case, you can optimize auxiliary lighting to enhance the overall performance and safety of your drone in a variety of situations.

Related article:

Section 4.

Recommended auxiliary lighting products

Here are some reputable brands and products:

Lume Cube:
Lume Cube is a well-known brand in the drone industry and offers compact and powerful LED lights. Their lighting products are lightweight, waterproof, and perfect for enhancing the visibility of your drone during low-light conditions. They are designed for both recreational and professional use.

Check out their website:

PGYTECH LED Light Kit:

PGYTECH is another popular company that provides lighting solutions for drones. Their LED Light Kit is easy to install and offers a variety of light modes (adjustable brightness levels and color temperatures), making it versatile for different situations.

Firehouse Technology ARC II Strobe Light:
Firehouse Technology specializes in strobe lights for drones. Known for its visibility and compliance with aviation regulations, the ARC II Strobe Light is highly visible and enhances the safety of your drone, making it perfect for night flights or in areas with low-light conditions/limited visibility.

DroneRafts Water Rescue Strobe Light:
As the name suggests, DroneRafts focuses on water rescue strobe lights. Specifically designed for search and rescue operations, DroneRafts offers water-activated strobe lights that enhance drone visibility in emergency situations. These lights are waterproof and help emergency responders locate drones quickly.

Check these lights out at ALTERNATE FORCE:

FoxFury D3060 Drone Light:

FoxFury specializes in drone lighting solutions, and their rugged D3060 Drone Light is known for its brightness, reliabilty and durability. Like the DroneRafts Water Rescue Strobe Light, these too can be used for various applications, including search and rescue and inspections. The D3060 Drone Light is designed to fit on most drones and provides superior illumination for night-time operations.

Drone Nerds Lume Cube Lighting Kit:
This kit includes Lume Cube lights and accessories tailored for drone applications. Lume Cubes are adjustable, powerful, and offer a range of mounting options. The kit comes with various mounting options, allowing you to customize the location of your lights on the drone.

Check them out at DroneNerds.com:

XSories XShine:
XSories specializes in action camera accessories, including drone lighting solutions. p The XShine is a powerful LED light that attaches to your drone, providing excellent visibility in all conditions, offering versatile lighting solutions for different scenarios.

Asteria Aerospace Bright Strobe Light:
Asteria Aerospace is known for its bright and durable strobe lights. These lights are visible from long distances and are designed to enhance the safety and visibility of your drone, especially for night flights.

Ulanzi DR-01 Anti-Collision Strobe Light:
Ulanzi's DR-01 is a compact and lightweight anti-collision strobe light suitable for various drone models. This light is perfect for enhancing the safety of your drone by providing additional visibility to other aircrafts.

Check them out at ULANZI:

Conclusion:

The drone accessory market is dynamic and new options may emerge – so, it's advisable to check for the latest products and reviews.

Always consider local regulations regarding the use of lights on drones, especially in public spaces or controlled airspace.

For reading this far, God bless!

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