How to Spot a Drone at Night (Things to Look For)


Although drones have several beneficial applications, some unknown individuals may use them to spy on people at night. Of course, no one likes to be spied on, which is why people get worried whenever they think someone is spying on them at night. Fortunately, there are some ways you can check whether someone is using a drone to spy on you at night.

If you want to spot a drone at night, you have to look for its lights, listen for its sound, or detect its radio signal. You can also send your own signal to the space where you suspect the drone is located and use a device to analyze the signal that bounces back to confirm the presence of a drone.

It’s fairly easy and straightforward to detect lights emitted by drones and to hear the telltale sound of a drone’s propellers without using any special device. But you must have a special device before you can use signals to detect the presence of drones. Read on to see some devices that can help you detect drones. 

How to Spot a Drone at Night

Just like we’ve mentioned earlier, the light, the sound, and the radio signal that originate from drones are the three things that can help you locate drones at night. Fortunately, these three things are easy to detect at night either with basic human senses or simple devices. Here are the various ways to spot a drone at night:

Watch out for light

Drones emit light when they fly at night, although they are often dim enough that you may not notice any light if you aren’t watching out for it. Some drones emit both blinking and non-blinking lights, which will help you in spotting the drone as it moves closer to you. 

Surveillance drones usually don’t have dim navigation lights, but instead have bright anti-collision lights that will help you easily spot the drone as soon as it comes close to you. The most common colors of light that drones have are green, white, and red, but they are not limited to these alone.

Listen to the sound

Although some drones can be relatively quiet when they fly, even the quietest drone can be detected if you are in a quiet environment. Drones make different kinds of sounds, but the major source of the sound is their propellers, which buzz as they move through the air. 

You don’t need any special device to detect the buzzing sound as long as you pay attention to your environment. Fortunately, the sounds of drones are easy to detect at night since soundwaves usually bend downward at night. In reality, there’s not a drone out there that can sneak up on you without making a sound.

Use a drone detector application

Fortunately, smartphones can help you spot drones easily. If you want to detect drones with your smartphone, all you have to do is install a drone detector application. There are various drone detector apps online. These applications have been designed to capture unencrypted wi-fi signals that drones use to communicate with their pilot. Once the signal has been captured, the application will compare it with a database to verify whether the signals are really coming from a drone. 

Some of these applications can even determine the location of the pilot after comparing the signal with the database. It’s important to note that drone detector applications can detect only drones whose distance away from your phone isn’t greater than half a mile. Also, those applications can’t detect drones that do not use wi-fi signals for communication or drones that use encrypted wi-fi signals. 

Use motion detection cameras

You can use motion detection cameras to spot drones if you don’t have much time to watch out for light or listen to sounds by yourself. In fact, motion detection cameras can often detect drones better than humans. Those cameras detect movement by comparing the series of images they capture. The camera will notify you of any intruding object when it detects any movement. Many motion detection cameras are programmed by default to send notifications to your phone. 

Note that these cameras work best when you place them at strategic locations and not a place where both light and movement are hard to detect. Also, the camera that you choose must be able to see objects using infrared light at night rather than using visible light. Infrared light makes objects visible just like the normal white light that we are familiar with, so you’ll see the image of any drone that intrudes into your space, though the image will not have true colors. 

Use microwave motion sensors

Microwave motion sensors can help you detect drones as well. Its principle of operation is a bit different from that of a motion detection camera. Microwave motion sensors send out electromagnetic waves to their surroundings and detect the waves as they bounce back. The microwave motion sensors will detect the presence of an intruding drone since parts of the waves will be bounced back by drones. 

The microwave motion sensors may even be able to determine the speed of the drone and its direction of motion after analyzing the wave that bounces off from it. Kindly note that the point where you install microwave motion sensors matters a lot. A window is an example of an ideal place to position a microwave motion sensor.

Use radar detectors

This is one of the most accurate methods of spotting drones at night. Radar detectors are able to detect drones by analyzing the signals that bounce off drones located along the path of the radar’s transmission. Radar detectors can monitor a larger space compared to microwave motion sensors, but they are more expensive to install. Radar detectors can monitor any specific direction or all directions, depending on your preference. They can detect drones from afar and determine their distance away from your property.

Radar detectors can differentiate between birds and drones, so they won’t raise alarms when birds come in their path of transmission. Some radar detectors can even give specific information about the models of drones that they detect. 

Use acoustic sensors

You can also use acoustic sensors to detect drones if your environment is usually quiet at night. Although acoustic sensors are expensive, they have some special advantages over most of the technologies we mentioned earlier. The major advantage of acoustic sensors is that they can detect drones that lack communication signals and don’t reflect signals properly.

In basic terms, acoustic sensors can detect all kinds of spy drones since all drones make some sounds when flying. Even the quietest drones will be detected when their propellers start working. Acoustic sensors will not only detect drones but also give more information about the model of the drone after analyzing the sound reaching them. They can differentiate between noises from drones and noises from other sources, so they are very unlikely to raise false alarms. 

What Does a Police Drone Look Like at Night

Now that you have discovered how to spot drones at night, you may be eager to know what a police drone looks like at night. Indeed, it’s necessary to know what a police drone looks like at night so that you won’t confuse a police drone with a spy drone. You don’t have to panic whenever you spot a police drone in your environment since police use drones for surveillance and not for spying on people. So how to identify a police drone?

Firstly, you should note that police drones are commercial drones (not military), so you shouldn’t expect them to look very different from the hobby drones you are familiar with. The major thing that differentiates police drones from other drones is their strobe light. Police strobe lights have blue and red colors. If you are a few meters away from a police drone at night, one side of the drone will have a red light and the other side will have a blue light. However, if the police drone is far away from you, its blue and red lights will appear to be joined together, but the colors will still be distinguishable.

Kindly note that a few hobbyists can decide to mimic police drones by installing blue and red strobe lights on their drones. A few questions may come to your mind after reading this fact. You may be wondering whether it’s proper for a hobbyist to fly a drone that mimics a police drone. If you love flying drones too, you may even be asking “can I fly my drone at night if I install blue and red lights on it?” 

Well, the answer to the question is straightforward. It’s not proper to fly a drone that mimics police drones unless you are a police officer. You may not be prosecuted if you do so, but such an act will make it more difficult for people to differentiate between police drones and other commercial drones. But you absolutely can fly your drone at night as a hobbyist, or with a waiver as a commercial drone operator. 

Elizabeth Ciobanu

Editor-in-Chief. Elizabeth is a full-time (homeschooling!) mom of four, and serial entrepreneur in a variety of enterprises, one of which is producing content for Droneblog. If free time existed, she would love to spend more time on hobbies such as flying a drone.

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