Everyone’s seen the videos. Flashing zooming drones zipping around a racecourse, but what really makes them interesting and intriguing? It’s the lights. Without bright colorful lights on the drones, they’re boring and static. But those lights serve a bigger purpose than just looking pretty. Lets take a look at this.
Drones’ lighting system are invariably high intensity LEDs, either individual “bulbs” or strips. They can be relatively dumb, powering up when the drone does, or they can be hooked directly to the flight controller, displaying different patterns depending on what the drone is doing, or anything else the pilot decides to program into it. In general, though, drone lights tend to be static, meaning once they’re powered on, they stay on until the flight is over.
In the USDRA, we recommend that pilots use a certain color scheme on their craft. Red lights on the back, white or green lights on the front. Why is this important? Well, when viewing through FPV goggles, LED lights show up MUCH clearer and brighter than ambient light on a drone. And when you’re tearing through a race course, you want to know when there’s someone flying near you, or who you’re chasing, and where they’re going. If you see red lights in your FPV display, you know the drone in front of you is flying away from you. If you see green or white, watch out! It’s headed toward you!
The second big win for LED lights is that they show up great on video. They interact with most digital cameras the same way they do on FPV displays (which, after all, are also digital cameras). The intensity is very high, and very dramatic. Watching a video where a drone passes you with their lights on can be dramatic and exciting!
So when you’re thinking about building your drone, or you see some racers out on a course, take a look at their lighting. It’s more than just pretty effects!