For commercial drone companies, receiving a Permission For Aerial Work is a necessary step towards becoming a licensed UAV operator. This is a legal requirement for any drone company that wishes to sell its aerial filming services and so any authorised UAV company operating today will have been granted this permission.
What is less common however, is the permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to operate drones at night-time.
At Drone Air, we are very pleased to announce that we have recently been granted drone night flying permissions by the CAA and are now able to operate our UAV 24 hours a day, right through the night.
Many of our clients ask us the question ‘can drones fly at night’ which is something we have been hoping to say yes to for a little while now and it has been granted to us at the perfect time, just as the clocks go back and the available daylight hours for flying are reduced.
Why is the CAA night rating not automatically granted to operators?
Licensed drone operators have to pass stringent checks in order to operate commercially, as not only are drones a relatively new technology, but they can also be hazardous if not controlled responsibly, and if clear safety procedures are not adhered to.
Operating drones at night simply increases the risk factor, as visibility is significantly reduced and people and objects are harder to spot and avoid. For this reason, authorised drone operators are not granted night flying permissions as standard and have to apply for a CAA night rating separately if they hope to fly at night.
Common applications for flying drones at night
The ability to operate drones at night not only brings with it greater flexibility for filming schedules, but can also allow for more unorthodox applications to be undertaken (and often with much lower wind speeds too). Some of the most suitable applications include:
Search and rescue:
Drones can be used more effectively at night when looking for missing persons or crime suspects, as when combined with a night-vision or infrared thermal imaging camera, they can easily pinpoint the location of the subject. Similarly, this technique works well for some wildlife management applications – especially with purely nocturnal animals.
Certain events only happen at night-time and without night flying permissions, these cannot be captured from the air. One such example would be for fireworks displays, such as the world’s largest fireworks display in Kuwait, which we filmed from a helicopter in 2012 (this of course was before we had our night filming permission for drones)!
Commercial premises are most vulnerable to criminal attacks at night and it is at this time that security is normally required. Through the use of drone night-vision or infrared cameras, UAVs can be used to patrol areas, act as a deterrent, and record any criminal activity in real-time.
Film and television:
Many films and television programmes would benefit greatly from aerial footage shot at night, though it is rarely seen, unless perhaps shot from a helicopter. Often film crews will shoot ‘day for night’ but the results are not usually very convincing. Expect all this to change, now that Drone Air have night flying permissions!
By their very nature, news events happen in the moment, so it is not always possible to wait for favourable daylight conditions to capture them when they occur. Having the ability to film at night ensures that journalists don’t miss the action as it happens.
We anticipate that drones will be used more frequently at night-time as they become a more common feature of our cultural landscape, but the number of drone operators who are granted permissions will remain relatively small as safety requirements are so strict.
So, if you have a project in mind that involves filming at night with drones, be sure to get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us on 01273 921991, whatever the time of day, or night.