I don’t know of too many beneficial accessories you can mount on a DJI mini-series drone, but a really bright light could be one. When considering the Operating Requirements for commercial drone pilots, stretching the VLOS (visual line of sight) with drone strobe lights seems to be a really good idea.
Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Regulations (Part 107)
Just as there are rules of the road when driving a car, there are rules of the sky when operating a drone.
- Always avoid manned aircraft.
- Never operate in a careless or reckless manner.
- Keep your drone within sight. If you use First Person View or similar technology, you must have a visual observer always keep your drone within unaided sight (for example, no binoculars).
- You cannot be a pilot or visual observer for more than one drone operation at a time.
- Do not fly a drone over people unless they are directly participating in the operation.
- Do not operate your drone from a moving vehicle or aircraft unless you are flying your drone over a sparsely populated area and it does not involve the transportation of property for compensation or hire.
Flying at Night
Drone pilots with current Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificates may obtain authorizations to fly at night through FAA-approved providers of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) services. Unlike for Part 107 pilots, there has never been any rule that prohibits recreational drone flight during the night and night flight is still allowed under Section 44809, but the new AC provides additional guidance.
The FAA recommends the CBOs (Community Based Organization) require the use of lights that are visible at least 3 statute miles (a unit of length equal to 1,760 yards or 5,280 feet; exactly 1609.344 meters) away for drones that fly at night. However, CBO members may be allowed to fly without drone lighting if the area has enough illumination to establish constant visual contact with the drone, as well as to identify any hazards on the ground or in the air.
… enough with the legalese already, let’s look at some options to make a DJI mini-series drone more visible, especially during dawn and dusk. Let’s look at two options from Firehouse Technology:
- ARC – High Intensity Drone Strobe Light for DJI, etc.
- Firehouse ARC “V” Drone Strobe Spot Light 1000 Lumen
ARC – High Intensity Drone Strobe Light
- Original “ARC” Cree Professional Series Strobe
- Emitted light: 600 Lumen, 4 Cree LEDs in one unit
- Battery: Lipo, 3.7V, 240mAh (rechargeable through micro USB) 6 hours of run time (in strobe mode)
- Dimensions: 1″ x 1.5″ x 3/16″
- Weight: 6 grams
- Price $33
- Weight 4 grams
- Price $12
- (Optional) Landing gear extensions
- Weight 18 grams
- Price $15
ARC V Drone Strobe Spot Light
- Firehouse Technology ARC “V” Professional Series Strobe
- Emitted light: 1000 Lumen, 5 Cree XPE focused LEDs
- Battery: Lipo, 3.7V, 250mAh (rechargeable through micro USB) 6 hours of run time (in strobe mode)
- Angled Lens for better side visibility
- Water Proof
- Dimensions: 1″ x 1.5″ x 1/2″
- Weight: 13 grams
- Price $35 (or $50 w/ mount)
- Weight 6 grams
- Price $17
The nimbler ARC-High Intensity Drone Strobe Light adds just 8 grams to the DJI Mini, keeping it under the important 250 grams mark. The flight behavior was unchanged. I.e., I didn’t notice any difference flying the DJI Mini 2.
However, you are landing pretty much directly on the LEDs, which are protected only by a thin layer of transparent shrink-wrap. Adding PGYTECH landing gear extensions would avoid that, but also add to the weight (18 grams), which now totals 265 grams.
The ARC V is noticeably brighter but also heavier. Strobe and mount together add 19 grams to the drone, which now has a total weight of 257 grams. The flight behavior was a little bit more twitchy / nervous in normal mode but felt unchanged in cine mode. The ARC-V’s mount doubles as landing gear. It feels brittle and frequent attaching / removing it from the drone will most certainly break the mount eventually. The light module itself feels high quality, button and charging port have seals, making the module waterproof. Instead of shrink-wrap, the ARC-V has a hard plastic lens that angles the LED light, making the drone visible even when one mile away.