Can you use night vision with drones?

Your drone may benefit from having night vision for a variety of reasons. Drone operations at night are entertaining for hobbyists and necessary for many occupations. For every person and use, there is a night vision solution available. 

There are three different night vision systems that can be used by drones. Each of these enables the camera on a drone to take photos or videos even when it’s dark outside or inside the drone. Using a low-light camera, an infrared (IR) camera with an IR light, or a thermal camera are the three methods that can be used to accomplish this. 

Naturally, the purpose of your drone operations at night will determine what kind of night vision you need for your drone. Furthermore, if your flight is for a commercial purpose, confirm that the Federation Aviation Association (FAA) has granted you a night flight waiver before you take off.

Due to its use for three distinct technologies, “night vision” for drones is not exactly a precise term. Although they each serve a different purpose, the goal of all of them is the same—to assist your drone in recording images in the dark and at night. In reality, the outcomes are quite different in each instance, as are the best applications for the various technologies. Take each one in turn.

Do drones have night vision?

surveying of area

The majority of mid-range consumer camera drones are capable of seeing reasonably well at night and in low light. In essence, this means that they can detect enough ambient light to take a picture that can be edited into a readable image. However, the amount of detail that a standard camera drone can capture at night or in low light will be significantly less than it would be during the day, and you’ll frequently have to deal with graininess that frequently results from not enough light for the sensors to clearly capture the image. Most drones lack infrared or thermal cameras, which would enable them to see at night. These are specialized cameras that must be purchased separately or as part of a complete drone setup.

What Are Night Vision Drones Used For? 

For a variety of reasons, drones must be flown at night, necessitating the use of night vision. Here are some examples of how night vision for drones is used.

1. Photography:

The main purpose of “night vision” for drones is typically photography. Perhaps you want to capture images of the city at night or of weddings or other occasions occurring after sunset. In most low-light situations, a decent drone with a sensitive sensor will be sufficient for taking pictures at night. It can also be very helpful to add an external light source.

2. Security:

Drones can be used for perimeter surveillance, which is a major application for nighttime flights. A good infrared camera that can see images in the dark might be a wise choice in this situation, as a low-light sensor might not be sufficient. Even better is a thermal camera that can capture images at a much greater range without relying on the infrared LEDs’ relatively limited range of reflection.

3. Search and Rescue:

Thermal cameras, which can detect a person’s heat signature in the middle of a relatively cold environment, have made it much simpler to locate a missing person in the dark. When mounted on a drone, the thermal camera can efficiently and quickly cover a large area in search of the person who has gone missing or who is in danger.

4. Inspections:

Many types of industrial and construction inspections can now take place at night and are no longer restricted to the daytime, and they almost always use drones with thermal imaging cameras as the primary means of transportation. The thermal emissivity can pass through these particles in the same way that visible light cannot, so neither the dust from a construction site nor the fog on a hillside present a problem. Only the very beginning of night vision’s potential applications for drones has been explored. The ability to see objects and people without relying on any external light source completely alters the game in so many industries, especially with thermal imaging.

5. Night Photography:

Night photography is the most typical application for night vision drones. You can capture stunning nighttime images and videos using an infrared camera. There are many stunning locations in the world that are only visible at night. These locations can be photographed in a way that was previously impossible with a night vision drone. You need a steady camera and a slow shutter speed for nighttime photography; you might also need an NDVI or Normalized Difference Vegetation Index camera to see the plants at night.

6. Monitoring Wildlife:

In order to observe wildlife without disturbing it, you can use night vision drones. You can see in the dark and distinguish between the heat signatures of various animals using an infrared camera. Research or the monitoring of endangered species can both benefit from this. A night-vision drone is the ideal way to observe animals because many of them are nocturnal and can be observed without affecting their normal behavior. Without putting yourself in danger, these drones allow you to see potentially harmful animals.

7. Agriculture:

Crop mapping, livestock monitoring, and other uses for drones in agriculture are common. Drones with night vision can be used to check on livestock at night or monitor crops. You can see in the dark and spot crop issues with an infrared camera. To check on your animals, use a thermal camera to see through smoke or fog. Additionally, livestock is frequently stolen at night, which can be prevented by using a drone with night vision to keep an eye on the thieves.

8. Military Operations:

Drones with night vision are used by the military for a number of operations, including navigation, target acquisition, and surveillance. You can use an infrared camera to see in the dark and recognize the heat signatures of people or animals. This can be used to locate enemies in the dark or to navigate in low light. Due to their ability to see through smokescreens, the military primarily uses thermal cameras.

Can you add night vision to your drone?

There is no doubt that practically any drone can be equipped with some types of night vision capabilities. To accomplish this, buy a specialized camera and light that you can fasten to your drone’s frame or gimbal. The most effective way to improve your nighttime photography is to use a lighting system, like the LUME CUBE, to cast a spotlight on the subjects you want to capture in dimly lit environments. You could attach a small infrared camera to the drone’s frame for an add-on infrared setup. These frequently lack batteries of their own and need a power source, which you can attach to a port on the drone in that case. You should be aware that your drone’s battery life will be shortened and, consequently, its flight time will be shortened if you add extra weight or plug in an accessory.

Reminders before Flying a Drone at Night 

Make sure you are aware of the regulations before using your newly equipped drone with night vision. When flying at night, you actually have more flexibility if you are only doing it for fun. As long as your flight is not being used to make money, you do not need a license or a waiver (for your photography). The only requirement is that your drone must have lights that make it easy to determine its orientation and direction. It used to be necessary to obtain a waiver from the FAA for nighttime operations if you wanted to fly for business at night. This is about to change, and instead of requiring a waiver, you will soon (soon!) only need to complete knowledge training and testing that includes lessons on nighttime operation safety.

Navigating in Unclear Weather Conditions 

The weather is frequently not clear enough for a standard drone to fly. A drone with night vision can navigate the clouds in these circumstances. With an infrared camera, you can see in the dark and identify the heat signatures of objects. For navigation in low light, this is advantageous.


Night vision technology for drones is a rapidly growing field that is being used for a variety of purposes such as photography, security, search and rescue, inspections, wildlife monitoring, agriculture, and military operations. The term “night vision” can refer to three distinct technologies: low-light cameras, infrared cameras with IR lights, and thermal cameras. Each of these technologies have different capabilities and are best suited for different purposes depending on the particular requirements for use. The goal of all of them is the same, to assist your drone in recording images in the dark.