In many situations, we must use a drone at night, whether for commercial work or hobbyist flights.
We must be aware that some drones are unsuitable for night photography and videography. That’s why, if you’re about to purchase one, you must look into specific characteristics.
The best drones for nighttime use, especially for photography and filming, are the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, Autel EVO 2 Pro Version 3, DJI Air 3, DJI Mini 4 Pro, and DJI Air 2S. These drones are brilliant at capturing crisp photographs at night and good-looking, smooth videos.
We want to explore these drones and share with you why they excel at night photography and videography and what else you have to know if you plan to use drones at night.
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Can you legally fly a drone at night?
In some parts of the world, you are forbidden to fly a drone at night, no matter what.
But in the United States, you are allowed to do it as long as you respect FAA laws and regulations:
- If you want to fly a drone at night, you must register it, even if it’s under 250 grams.
- Any drone that flies at night must be equipped with specific FAA-approved anti-collision lights.
- You must follow the general FAA guidelines and fly safely.
- Commercial pilots must comply with the FAA’s training and testing programs, acquiring the Part 107 Small UAV license.
If you’re from another part of the world than the US and you want to fly a drone after dark, you must check with your local or country drone regulations to ensure you’re not breaking the law.
For instance, in New Zealand, you cannot fly a drone at night.
Can drones photograph or film at night?
Most drones are quite capable of photographing and recording videos at night, even if they’re equipped with smaller sensors.
However, the image or video quality directly relates to the drone sensor. This is the most critical factor we must consider when buying a drone for nighttime use.
Here are the top five drones that excel at night photography and videography.
1. DJI Mavic 3 Pro
The DJI Mavic 3 Pro is one of the most advanced consumer-level drones and is top-of-the-line for night photography and filming.
|DJI Mavic 3 Pro
|231.1×98×95.4 mm folded, without propellers
|Max Flight Distance
|17.4 mi or 28 km
|Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors
|Advanced ActiveTrack 5.0 with follow-me mode
|Three-axis mechanical gimbal
|Hasselblad Camera: 4/3-inch CMOS, can capture images in 20 MP and film in 5.1k at 50 frames per second. 1-3x zoom
Medium Tele Camera: 1/1.3-inch CMOS, can capture images in 48 MP but can film only in 4k at 60 frames per second. It has 3-7x zoom.
Tele Camera: 1/2-inch CMOS that can photograph in 12 MP and film in 4k at 60 frames per second. It comes with 7-28x zoom.
- It comes with three cameras
- The Hasselblad has one of the largest sensors (4/3 inches)
- This drone has a night mode, which drastically improves night footage
- It has excellent stability, and it also comes with a three-axis mechanical gimbal
- It has an omnidirectional avoidance system
- The drone also has an advanced ActiveTrack 5.0 with an autonomous return-to-home feature
- Can fly for a long time and long-range
- It’s compatible with the DJI RC Pro
- The price is slightly high for most drone consumers, especially if you also go for the RC Pro or the Cine drone version
- When using the night mode, the anti-collision sensors are not active
- Night mode records video with no noise. It may need some post-processing to improve the quality
The DJI Mavic 3 Pro comes with not only one but three cameras for nighttime photography and filming. Two have zoom capabilities.
However, only one camera, the Hasselblad 4/3-inch, is suitable for night filming and photography.
The other two are decent, but have lower-quality sensors, and with zoom features, it’s harder to capture long-exposure photographs.
However, in some scenarios, when we want to capture an illuminated iconic place or monument, the zoom from the medium tele or tele camera comes in handy.
The Mavic 3 Pro, like any drone from the Mavic 3 series, has a night mode function that will eliminate image noise at a higher ISO.
Without internal noise reduction–for instance, at ISO 6400–the video will look noisy. With night mode, it appears crystal clear but slightly smoothed out.
Post-processing video software can also improve this footage.
2. Autel EVO 2 Pro
Taking a step back from DJI drones, we have another top-of-the-line example, the Autel EVO 2 Pro, version 3. It’s capable of delivering more than excellent night photographs and videos at 6k resolution.
15KM Video Transmission, 360° Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing, 40 Mins Flight Time, 6.4-inch Touch Screen Smart Controller SE Fly More Combo, No Geo-Fencing
|Autel EVO 2 Pro V3
|231x129x109 mm folded
|1,187 g at takeoff
|Max Flight Distance
|15.5 mi or 25 km
Transmission distance of 9.3 mi with SkyLink 2.0
|Omnidirectional anti-collision sensors with 19 groups of sensors
|Dynamic Track 2.0 with advanced follow-me mode
Moonlight Algorithm 2.0
|Three-axis mechanical gimbal
|1-inch CMOS capable of photographing in 20 MP and filming in 6k at 30 frames per second
- This drone comes with a 1-inch Sony CMOS sensor
- The Moonlight Algorithm 2.0 is a special noise-reduction software, making this drone flawless for nighttime photographs and videos
- It can fly for a very long time and is capable of long-range flight due to the SkyLink 2.0 Transmission System
- This drone has an omnidirectional anti-collision system
- It boasts superior stability when flying and a three-axis mechanical gimbal
- The drone comes in a bundle pack, including the remote controller with a 6.4-inch incorporated screen
- It’s an excellent drone for professional use, even at night
- The drone price can be high for some consumers
- Compared to the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, this drone only has a camera, and the sensor is slightly smaller despite similar prices
As an alternative to the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, the third version of Autel EVO 2 Pro is an excellent choice if you’re looking to capture stunning images and videos at night.
This drone comes with unique noise reduction software that’s active when photograph and filming after dark.
The video resolution from the 1-inch Sony CMOS sensor is more than enough even for professional night use.
Many DJI pilots switched to Autel drones for professional use. Features like Live Deck 2.0 are awesome for projection monitoring and live streaming.
Another fantastic advantage is that the live transmission image you receive on the remote controller is at 2.7k resolution at 60 frames per second, way above what DJI can offer, even at night.
Because of this, you can spot even little details through your drone during the night, making it much safer to fly than any other.
3. DJI Air 3
DJI surprised everyone with a fantastic new drone in the Air series capable of delivering excellent photos and videos, even during nighttime.
DJI Air 3 Fly More Combo with DJI RC 2 (screen remote controller), Drone with Medium Tele & Wide-Angle Dual Primary Cameras for Adults 4K HDR, 46-Min Max Flight Time, 48MP, Two Extra Batteries.
|DJI Air 3
|207×100.5×91.1 mm folded, without propellers
|720 g at takeoff
|Max Flight Distance
|20 mi or 32 km with the DJI O4 transmission system
|Omnidirecitonal obstacle avoidance sensors
|Advanced ActiveTrack 5.0 with Follow-me mode
|Three-axis mechanical gimbal
|Wide-Angle Camera: 1/1.3-inch CMOS that can photograph in 48 MP resolution and film in 4k at 100 frames per second
Medium Tele Camera: 1/1.3-inch CMOS capable of capturing the same as wide-angle camera: 48 MP photo and 4k100fps video.
- An excellent professional drone with a decent starting price
- The first drone to come with the newest OcuSync 4.0 transmission system
- Best long-range drone
- Can fly for a very long time
- It has a decent camera sensor for nighttime filming and photography
- This drone also has Night Mode for superior videos captured after dark
- It comes with two similar cameras, but one is for medium zoom
- Omnidirectional anti-collision sensors
- The camera sensors are smaller than what the Mavic 3 series, Air 2S, or EVO 2 Pro can offer
- The night footage requires post-processing with video editing software
If you’re looking for a much cheaper drone to use for night photography or filming, you can never go wrong with the DJI Air 3.
Packing the latest transmission system, this drone can fly long-range like no other. And with the long flight times, you can do a lot with a single battery.
The Air 3 also has the Night Mode feature found in more expensive drones, allowing you to capture better videos during the night due to its internal noise reduction software.
The nighttime video and photo quality is appropriate even for professional use.
Both cameras feature identical CMOS and video plus photo quality.
But it is always better to use a wide lens for night photography and filming because of footage stability and the ability to capture longer exposure photographs.
4. DJI Mini 4 Pro
The DJI Mini 4 Pro is currently the newest DJI drone that packs everything you need from a semi-professional drone under 250 grams.
And night photography/videography? This drone excels.
|DJI Mini 4 Pro
|148×94×64 mm folded, without propellers
|Under 249 g
|34 mins with the Intelligent Battery
45 mins with the Mini 3 Series Intelligent Battery Plus
|Max Flight Distance
|11.1 mi or 18km with the Intelligent Battery
15.5 mil or 25km with the Intelligent Battery Plus
|Omnidirectional anti-collision sensors
|New Active Track 360 with enhanced subject tracking
|Three-axis mechanical gimbal
|1/1.3-inch CMOS photographing in 48 MP resolution and capable of recording up to 4k 100 frames per second
- It comes with the newest OcuSync 4.0 transmission system
- This drone is under 250 grams
- It’s small, lightweight, and portable
- The camera is more than decent for a semi-professional drone to use during the night
- The first Mini drone to come with omnidirectional anti-collision sensors
- It has a three-axis mechanical gimbal
- It comes with a newer ActiveTrack 360-degree system with a uniquely advanced tracking system.
- The Mini 3 Series battery plus is compatible with the Mini 4 Pro drone
- It has an excellent flight time and can fly long-range without issue
- It has a reasonable price for what the drone it offers
- The image sensor is slightly smaller than the professional drones we mentioned
Ever since the release of DJI Mini 4 Pro, this drone has been selling like hotcakes. That’s not only because it’s a DJI drone, but it’s the most advanced drone that weighs under 250 grams.
For everyday use, you cannot go wrong with the Mini 4 Pro, which is more than excellent for any beginner.
As for nighttime use, from what we know, the camera sensor is capable of capturing astonishing videos and photographs without any issues, even if it is slightly smaller than other drones.
The Mini 4 Pro camera is an improved version of the Mini 3 Pro CMOS. It’s the same size but with different technologies.
Moreover, the Mini 4 Pro is yet another drone compatible with the DJI RC 2.
The following video will show the Mini 4 Pro’s night capabilities in auto mode. However, if you master manual shooting, this drone can excel, even in low-light conditions.
5. DJI Air 2S
Whilst the DJI Air 2S is an older drone, it comes with advantages over the Air 3.
If you already own it or can get the Air 2S at a reasonable price, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider this drone for night photographs and videography.
Drone with 3-Axis Gimbal Camera, 5.4K Video, 1-Inch CMOS Sensor, 4 Directions of Obstacle Sensing, 31-Min Flight Time, Max 7.5-Mile Video Transmission, MasterShots, Gray
|DJI Air 2S
|180×97×77 mm folded
|Max Flight Distance
|11.4 mi or 18 km
|Forward, backward, downward and upward anti-collision sensors
|ActiveTrack with follow-me mode
|Three-axis mechanical gimbal
|1-inch CMOS capable of photographing in 20 MP resolution and film in 5.4k at 30 frames per second
- It has a 1-inch CMOS, which is more than decent for low-light and night photography and filming
- It has four-way anti-collision sensors
- Can fly for a decent amount of time
- Capable of flying long-range
- This drone has good stability when hovering
- Decent wind resistance
- It has a reasonable price
- It’s outdone by the DJI Air 3 in terms of performance, flight time, sensors, and processing power
- It currently has a similar price to the DJI Air 3
- It doesn’t have omnidirectional anti-collision sensors
- The flight time is lower than the above-mentioned drones
Although the DJI Air 2S has been released for a while, its 1-inch CMOS makes this drone very suitable for nighttime photography and filming.
But there’s a catch. The Air 3 sensor is smaller; however, it’s newer and packs better technology.
Therefore, which is better for night photography and filming: The Air 2S or Air 3?
Overall, I would go for the Air 3 because it has more features and a better flight time and range than the DJI Air 2S.
This doesn’t mean the Air 2S isn’t worth acquiring.
The fact that it’s still in production and we have a newer Air drones means we should often see some reasonable offers and price decreases for this drone.
Although these drones are the top choices to capture nighttime photographs and videos, they are not the only ones.
The following drones are also excellent for nighttime use.
» MORE: Best Camera Drones Under $2,000
Autel EVO Lite Plus: This drone is a cheaper version of the EVO 2 Pro that still packs a 1-inch CMOS sensor.
It doesn’t have the Moonlight Algorithm 2.0, but the camera can film in 6k, and it has excellent dynamic range and has been proved efficient for use at night.
DJI Mavic 3 Classic: If you’re looking for a cheaper drone than the Mavic 3 Pro, the Classic version shares the same 4/3-inch Hasselblad camera, but it only has one camera.
As you won’t need multiple cameras to capture night shots, this drone may be the cheaper, more suitable version for you.
DJI Mini 3 Pro: Released over a year ago, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is one of the most successful in the Mini Series. As with the recent Mini 4 Pro release, the Mini 3 Pro should see a price decrease soon.
And with a 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor, it can deliver good images and videos after dark. It’s not comparable with the top products, but despite its price, it’s one of the best drones for its cost.
DJI Avata: If you want to capture FPV cinematic content at night and don’t want a custom FPV with an attached GoPro, the DJI Avata could be a suitable choice.
With a 1/1.7-inch CMOS and a wide ISO range, Avata’s camera is the best in the FPV world.
Factors to consider when buying a drone for night photography and videography
CMOS and ISO performance
The CMOS, or the camera sensor of a drone, is the main component responsible for high-quality images.
A larger camera sensor will capture more light, which is an advantage for low-light photography.
With a larger camera sensor, we can also reduce the ISO and take advantage of clearer images or videos at night.
The ISO’s primary role is to increase light sensitivity of a drone camera but, at the same time, it will induce image noise.
A well-balanced ISO value with a larger camera sensor can help a drone take crisp, good-looking images or videos at night.
That doesn’t mean a camera with a larger sensor can photograph or capture videos better at night than one with a smaller CMOS.
It all depends on the current technology.
For instance, the DJI Air 3, with a smaller CMOS sensor than the DJI Air 2S, can capture slightly better photographs after dark because the sensor is more advanced.
For this reason, the ISO can be increased more with very little image noise compared to older-generation camera sensors.
The camera’s aperture also plays an essential role in capturing more light during the night in a shorter time.
However, a drone camera aperture cannot be compared to a DSLR lens aperture.
With a larger hole to allow more light to come in (hence, the aperture), a drone’s camera CMOS can process a higher amount of light in a shorter timeframe for better results.
Drone stability and performance
Most drones are pretty good at hovering in place, another factor we must look into.
When taking pictures at night, we have a few options for manually setting the shutter speed.
The shutter speed is the amount of time the camera sensor can capture the light. The more light it captures, the better these night photographs look.
But here’s the issue. A drone must hover very stably in place to capture long-exposure photographs for more than a few milliseconds.
No drone can stay still like a camera on a tripod, no matter how advanced the drone is.
Therefore, with better drone stability and performance of internally processing these images while correcting the image for any drone micro-adjustments, more promising night photographs will emerge.
So, after all, it is not only about the CMOS size to capture fantastic night photographs. The drone should be newer and advanced enough to process these images and deliver good photos.
While a DSLR camera on a tripod can be set for an infinite shutter speed, a drone will definitely have its limits.
Noise reduction processing
Within the drone performance category, we also have to ensure that the drone is capable of processing (reducing or removing) the noise internally before delivering the final image and video.
Some drones will have a night mode function that activates this noise reduction software when filming with a drone, drastically improving how the final video looks.
But not all the drones have these functions. We can find them more on high-end rather than budget drones.
For instance, DJI has Night Mode in some drones while Autel has the Moonlight Algorithm 2.0.
Without these, drones can still deliver excellent nighttime videos and photographs, but with higher ISO, so we will see some image noise.
The ISO noise can be further reduced with editing software.
Three-axis mechanical gimbal
All our drone recommendations come with a three-axis mechanical gimbal.
A drone with good hovering stability, no wind, and a three-axis mechanical gimbal, should take smooth and crisp footage.
The three-axis mechanical gimbal will help the drone stabilize a video, even in windier conditions.
Moreover, it also helps when taking longer-exposure photographs.
Therefore, a drone that flies and photographs at night should always have a three-axis mechanical gimbal for the best results.
Drone safety features
Flying a drone at night is more dangerous than during the day, especially if you fly FPV.
Although it does not directly impact how a drone will photograph or capture videos at night, knowing that we have low visibility and that there’s always a risk of crashing the drone, you should strongly consider obstacle avoidance sensors.
However, some drones, such as the DJI Mavic 3, will disable the anti-collision sensors when using the Night Mode feature.
Generally, when obstacle avoidance sensors are active, especially during landing and taking off, the anti-collision sensors will work just fine.
Tips to fly a drone at night (with photography and video tips)
- Fly in no wind: Ensure there’s little or no wind when you plan to fly the drone at night to capture photographs or videos. The drone’s stability will matter a lot for night photographs, and the wind can drastically impact an image taken with the long-exposure mode.
- Set your camera on manual mode and try different settings: For nighttime photography and videography with a drone, use the manual mode of the camera to lock ISO onto specific values and try long exposures at different shutter speeds, while the aperture will be open at its widest.
- Take off from an illuminated open zone: Most of the downward vision sensors are based on visual technology to recognize reflective surface patterns when landing. When landing in a completely dark area, the drone may struggle.
- Equip your drone with anti-collision lights: This will help incoming aircraft that fly above to spot the drone flying at night.