How To Spot A Drone At Night – Everything You Need To Know

DJI drone with navigational lights

Are you wondering whether a drone is flying near your property at night? Maybe you’re a beginner drone pilot who keeps losing your drone while you’re flying it? This post will cover everything you need to know on how to spot a drone at night.

To spot a drone at night, you will need to look for anti-collision and navigation lights commonly found on all drones. You will also need to listen closely to your surroundings for the distinct ‘buzzing’ sound most drones make. You could also use drone detection methods such as using a drone detection app or RF sweeper.

Using the methods below, you will find out how to tell if it’s a drone at night.

Look For Lights Found On Every Drone

Most drones come with some sort of lighting, whether that be navigation lights, or anti-collision lights

Spotting a drone will require you to know a little bit about the lights commonly found on a drone and what color the lights usually are on a drone.

Navigation lights

Navigation lights come pre-installed in every drone. They are used to determine where the drone is when in flight and in what direction it’s moving.

Drone Mavic Pro

These are usually solid, non-strobe lights. They come in green, red or white.

Most drones will have one color such as red in the front of the drone, and then a different color on the back of the drone-like white or blue.

Navigation lights are not very bright and can make it quite challenging to see a drone at night when it gets too far away from its operator.

This is where anti-collision lights come into play.

Anti-collission lights

All drones are required to have anti-collision lights at night by the Federal Aviation Association (FAA).

This is a rule put in place to ensure the safety of a drone and more importantly, manned aircraft flying in the same airspace.

The FAA requires all drones to have lights that can be seen from 3 statute miles. These lights are usually bright enough to satisfy this demand.

These lights are either white or red and make it much easier to see a drone because they blink while the drone moves. They can also be seen as a strobe.

Do you use strobe lights on your drone?

Anti-collision lights are sometimes already installed in a drone before purchase, but more often than not, the operator must install them themselves.

Related Post: Can You Fly Your Drone At Night In 2021?

Listen Closely To Your Surroundings

Consumer drones are not yet silent. This allows them to be detected quite easily once they are within a certain range from someone.

Drones usually have a distinct ‘buzzing’ sound caused by the rapid rotation of the drone’s propellers that keep it in the air.

How loud is your drone?

Here is a great video that shows you what two popular drones of different sizes sound like and how loud they are at different heights. This can help give you an idea of how close a drone has to be for you to be able to hear it.

Related Post: Can Drones See Inside Your House?

Use A Drone Detection App Or Rf Sweeper

These are two cheap and effective ways of detecting a drone. One consists of an app and the other an RF Sweeper.

Although these methods are not perfect, they are useful to know and are both legal to use.


DeTect, a company that specializes in advanced radar and other sensor technology has developed a free app that can enable you to use your Android smartphone or tablet into a small UAV locater that can detect, track and record information on many consumer drones.

It has a range of up to 1/4 to 1/2 miles allowing you to detect a drone from a good distance away.

It records data such as the drone’s model and ID.

It works by detecting unencrypted wifi signals that drone pilots use to communicate with drones via the transmitter.

Smartphones are capable of catching these signals and comparing the information with stored information in a database to determine if it’s a drone and the make and model of the drone.

However, drones such as the newer DJI models use encrypted wifi signals and therefore renders this useless.

This free app is available on Google Play if you want to download it and try it out yourself.

RF Sweeper

RF sweepers can be used to detect radio frequencies. They are more often than not handheld devices.

They are usually used to detect any sort of electronic device including a drone.

These are very common and easy to find. You can easily find one on Amazon for example.

For a more detailed post on detecting and tracking drones, click here

Why Would You Need To Fly Your Drone At Night?

Drones are now allowed to be flown by all at night after the FAA rules that have allowed commercial drone pilots to fly at night without obtaining a waiver.

Recreational pilots have always been allowed to fly at night to capture stunning images and videos. This is for photographers and videographers who want to add to their collection.

Drone flying in the sunset

Recreational flyers may also just want to take out their drone for fun as well!

Commercial drone pilots may find many new job opportunities by flying their drones at night. They can use them to help in construction or mining for example.

Night-time commercial drone operation has opened up many new job opportunities for commercial drone pilots trying to make a living flying drones.


With all these drones flying around now it may be hard to determine what the drone operator’s intentions are. The methods mentioned above will hopefully make it a lot easier to spot a drone at night.

Drone technology is continuously growing, and we’re sure drone detection methods will continue to evolve as well!

Have you ever been spied on by a drone?

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