Tonight, there will be a fantastic fireworks show I want to capture with my DJI Mini 2 SE.
Wait! Can I do it? Should I do it?
The DJI Mini 2 SE can fly like any other drone at night, but operating after dark is not always legal. Moreover, the camera will underperform in low light or during night flights.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about flying the DJI Mini 2 SE after dark.
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Can you legally fly a drone at night?
According to the FAA, a drone can fly at night in the United States if you follow these rules:
- The Mini 2 SE must be registered with the FAA. You will also have to comply with Remote ID if required.
- The Mini 2 SE must be equipped with anti-collision lights. These additional accessories will bring the drone beyond the 250-gram barrier for registration.
- Maintain a visual line of sight.
- To fly the Mini 2 SE at night for commercial purposes, you must acquire the Part 107 Small UAS license and comply with commercial drone laws.
We must consider that flying a drone at night, whether the Mini 2 SE or any other drone, is dangerous. Without good experience and fundamental knowledge, things can easily go wrong.
If must fly, ensure you take off from an illuminated open area and don’t put others in danger.
In many countries and territories, such as New Zealand, flying a drone at night is strictly forbidden, even sub-250-gram drones like the Mini 2 SE.
Therefore, if you’re not from the United States, ensure you follow your country’s drone legislation before taking off.
DJI Mini 2 SE photo and video quality at night
Because the Mini 2 SE has a 1/2.3-inch sensor with an effective 12-megapixel resolution for photography, its camera is not suitable for night photography.
The camera sensor is too small to capture clear night shots.
You can raise the ISO manually to capture more light with the drone camera, but this will be impractical, as image noise will deteriorate your photographs.
As for capturing videos with the Mini 2 SE at night, unfortunately, it will be the same as with photography.
This drone can film at a maximum resolution of 2.7k at 30 frames per second.
Although the resolution is not a core characteristic for night use of the drone, the ISO limit and noise will impose the same problems.
The winning DJI drone for night photography filming is the Mavic 3 Pro with a 4/3-inch Hasselblad camera.
The Mini 2 SE is far below those specs. But it doesn’t mean it’s that bad.
Let’s have a look at the following video, shall we?
Accessories to improve DJI Mini 2 SE visibility at night
If increasing the Mini 2 SE’s visibility with anti-collision lights, here are some accessories to look into.
The blinking colored lights from the drone won’t be enough to comply with FAA regulations.
That’s why an anti-collision light to attach to the drone is a must.
As shown in the manufacturer handbook, the anti-collision lights have to be placed on the drone’s top.
This will create a layer of visibility for incoming aircraft that most likely will fly above the Mini 2 SE’s max legal height, which is 400 feet.
The aircraft pilot will be aware a drone is flying nearby.
Remember, with reduced visibility, you won’t be able to see the incoming aircraft, only their lights. That’s why complying with FAA laws to fly a drone at night is mandatory.
Does the return-to-home work at night with DJI Mini 2 SE?
The return to home on the Mini 2 SE is based on GPS signal positioning.
Basically, if you fly the Mini 2 SE at a great distance and want to return it to you, doing it manually may raise a series of problems because of low visibility.
That’s why return to home is the ideal approach.
However, let’s set a few ground rules you should consider when using the return-to-home function at night with your Mini 2 SE.
- Set the return-to-home altitude MUCH HIGHER than the tallest object around. Remember, you have zero visibility.
- Continuously monitor the progress of the drone returning back to you autonomously.
- Take extra precautions when the drone is landing, as there may be an issue with the downward vision system.
The downward vision system equipped at the bottom of your drone has the role of calculating the distance between the drone and the ground in real-time, as the GPS position may be inaccurate.
When the drone is landing, the Mini 2 SE will rely on this sensor.
However, the downward vision system is based on a visual sensor that will measure the reflectiveness of the ground to have an idea of when to slow down and land it nicely.
According to DJI, for this to operate correctly, it must land on a surface with discernible patterns and a diffuse reflectivity of about 20 percent.
Moreover, the drone landing sensor will require adequate lighting (lux >15).
When landing the Mini 2 SE at night, these characteristics for a smooth landing will be lacking because of almost no visibility (unless you land in an illuminated parking lot, for instance).
That’s why, in this situation, it’s most recommended that when the Mini 2 SE begins descending and is at about 10 meters’ height (the downward vision system will work between 0.2 and 10 meters), attempt a manual landing and slow down the descending speed.
Can you use intelligent functions at night with DJI Mini 2 SE?
The Mini 2 SE has no ActiveTrack or follow-me mode to use at night, but it has the QuickShots function.
QuickShots will work based on two factors: GPS positioning and visual layout.
The GPS will work just fine at night as during the day, but the drone will use visual data to calculate the rotation of a circular shot, which it lacks at night.
Therefore, the QuickShots functions won’t work in low-light conditions or at night.
Tips for flying DJI Mini 2 SE at night
- Always follow drone laws and regulations.
- Check your surroundings before taking off, and do it from an open area with some brightness.
- Be aware of surrounding people, especially if you consider taking off at night during an event or planned fireworks show.
- The Mini 2 SE lacks obstacle avoidance sensors; therefore, it can easily crash into an object or pole you were unaware of due to low visibility. Take extra precautions, checking the area during the day, and note the obstacles around.
- If the Mini 2 SE is unable to lock into enough satellites, do not take off. You will have difficulty manually navigating the drone back to you and landing at night.
- If you equip anti-collision lights and the drone weighs more than 250 grams, you will be required by law to have it registered.
- Be aware that the Mini 2 SE is slightly noisy and can disturb others at night if you take off at late hours.
» MORE: Is the DJI Mini 2 SE Worth It?