How to Add Night Vision to Your Drones


Guest post by Kalman Tihanyi

A drone is a cool technological gadget in the modern world. This unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is opening new opportunities for our life. The night flight drones are a handy choice for capturing night photos and videos for many reasons. With the aid of these pilotless aircraft, you can now easily get an aerial view and know what is happening surrounding you.

As a technology lover, you may be wondering how to add night vision to drones, what are their benefits, and so on. That’s why we’ve come with the handy tips to inform all these important aspects. Read the following section to find out the details!

What Is Night Vision Drone?

The thermal camera is the main part of a night vision drone that makes it different from the day vision drone. Any object that is warmer than absolute zero temperature emits infrared radiation. After that, the thermal imaging system detects that and creates a thermogram according to the body temperature.

In 2015, the DJI drone company and FLIR infrared imaging company jointly developed thermal imaging solutions for drones. After that, other drone companies like- Yuneec, Parrot, Hubsan, Autel Robotics, etc made it possible to use drones for local governments, homeowners, and private services. This technology is still developing.

Important Uses of Night Vision Drones

Night flight drones are used for a variety of purposes as like other night vision devices. So, it’s necessary to know their key uses and benefits. Let’s discuss some of them.

Law Enforcement and Security

You can’t deny the usefulness of drones in modern war. Law enforcement agents go out for criminals or suspicious activities at night. And thermal imaging drones make this task simple. Drones can also detect guns, bombs, and explosives. If needed cops can fly over with a drone, and get an additional advantage over enemies. 

The thermal drones are very much useful for security reasons. They can capture large areas of video footage at a time. Night drones make it easy to find out and arrest criminals. To detect people at the border and entering the area, night vision drones will be a suitable option.

Search and Rescue

Night flight drones are handy in search and rescue operations. If you want to discover an animal in a deep forest at night, the thermal signature can detect it within a short time. These unmanned robots are great to identify hidden objects. Besides, drones can be the right aid in cave exploring and night searching tasks.

The thermal drones are also useful in the firefighting sector. They can guide the firefighters to recognize the hot and cold spots. Due to easy object detection capability drones are currently being used in the rescue operation widely.

Industrial Inspection

Drones with thermal cameras play a significant role in commercial inspection in many ways. At night, drones can inspect the industry’s overall situations. If there is any gas or oil pipe leaking, or smoke in the warehouse, or anything else they will instantly inform the authority.

Wildlife Management

Nowadays, thermal drones are widely used in wildlife observation and management. These robots can protect your harvest from predators and vermin. If there is any thief or suspicious persons, night drones can easily tell farmers to take necessary actions. 

Sometimes, we need to know the number of birds or animals in a certain area, you can get the exact information through this device.

Surveying

Whenever you go to a new place and want to stay there at night, it’s wise to know your surroundings. Night flight drones will give you the actual footage of the location in one fly. In this way, you will be able to notice from miles away. That’s amazing for the night campers or outdoorsmen.

Aerial Video and Photo Shoot

Image source: unsplash

Whenever you need infrared and night photography or video shooting at dark, you can choose night-vision drones without any hesitation. Most of the night scenarios of movies, documentaries, stadium matches, live concerts, or other entertainment events are now shot through drones. 

They provide quality videos and photos, but you need to know the right configuration of the gadget.

Adding Night Vision to Drones

To take aerial photography and make your drones night vision capable, you have to do the following things.

Choose a Stable Drone

Image source: unsplash

As we’ve told earlier that, a thermal camera is the main distinctive gear between a night and day vision drone. First of all, you have to buy a thermal camera and set it up correctly in the drone’s body. 

You will find plenty of quality drones for night flights such as Phantom 4, DJI Mavic Pro, and many more. If the drone isn’t stable enough, you can use a carbon propeller to improve that. While buying the thermal camera check out its range, flight time, charge time, resolution, working temperature, and other important features. 

The higher specification camera you will add, the more crisp and clear footage you will get.

Set Up Thermal Camera for Your Drone

After picking the wonderful thermal camera, you have to attach it with a quality gimbal with the drone. The gimbal will stabilize the camera’s motion on 3-axis. The camera and gimbal will work together in the air and will provide you steady and stable pictures. Keep in mind, position your camera at a small angle not more than 15-degrees.

Inspect the Areas in Advance

It’s important to inspect the area in the daytime where you are going to fly the drone at night. Find out a safe landing and takeoff location. Large trees and tall buildings might affect your flight. 

Also, notice the environmental situations, as small environmental change may impact night shooting. If the temperature is too low or very high or if there is rain or snow, don’t fly your drone in such weather.

Adjust Settings

Before sending the drone to space, it’s necessary to adjust the camera’s settings and other things. The DJI and Parrot drone comes with remote camera options but quadcopters don’t have these facilities.

There are lots of options and you can configure them according to your need. Changing the frame rate, you can get wonderful shots. Some people think higher resolution is always better, but it’s not true.

Most of the FLIR and DJI thermal cameras come in two resolutions 336×256 and 640×512 pixels. The 336×256 pixels resolution is quite good for general inspection. Whereas we suggest 640×512 pixels for wildlife management, search and rescue, and public safety. The second one provides a larger field of view.

You have to set the image format as RAW (DNG) to get a greater dynamic image. Move the ISO value as low as you can for a bright picture. Usually, ISO values less than 100 are pretty good. To ensure maximum light dragging, set the shutter speed between 5 to 8 seconds. 

If you don’t want to see any red ink on the pictures don’t forget to turn off the front LEDs. White balance is another important thing that can be adjusted manually through the camera.

Always recharge your batteries to 100% before every flight. If your drone tells it has a 20% charge remaining, please return to home (RTH) the device slowly. At 10%, the drone begins to land automatically, no matter where you are. For emergencies, you can carry a spare battery.

Manage the Flight

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If you don’t have the experience to fly a drone before, it may be difficult for you to fly it for the first time. In this case, you can take an expert’s help. Also, make sure, you have the legal right to fly the drone in your area.

After that, you can plot the plan to a map to understand what you are going to do. If the drone goes out of your sight be sure you know where it will be. Before the actual flying, do one or two test runs to understand everything is well. 

Are You Allowed to Fly Drones at Night?

If you want to fly a drone at night, you need the approval of the proper authority. A waiver can run the drone at night but most of the time the drone needs to have lights that can be visible from at least 3 miles away. 

The good news is that regulations are being passed for the easy use of night vision drones. You just need to know the law of your area clearly to avoid any legal issues.

Conclusion

Finally, if you decide to fly a night-vision drone to shoot some wonderful footage, make sure you’ve done all the necessary adjustments that we’ve mentioned here. Hopefully, you will be able to fly your drone successfully. However, be careful and follow the regulation. Good luck and have fun with the drone!

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