Flying at night

Morning all :slight_smile:

I wondered what source of information people rely on to decide whether it’s appropriate / permissible / legal to fly their drone at night? It’s not specifically addressed in the Drone Code, but it is covered in the formal PfCO’s that are issued by the CAA for commercial operation. Here’s the wording:

“This Permission shall have effect during daylight hours…”, with daylight being defined as 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. To me, it seems clear that the implication is that the PfCO does not allow for night flying for commercial operations.

I’d be interested to hear general views on the legality (or otherwise) of night flying, for commercial or recreational flights, and the sources used to make an informed decision.

Cheers

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Morning Dave!

My personal take would be that two clearly different sets of rules apply here. As you say, one set of rules for a commercial operation and another set of rules for a hobbyist flight.

I can’t comment on the PfCO rules as I don’t know enough about it, but for a recreational flight I would suggest rule # 1 of the Drone Code applies (well, all the DC rules apply, but you know what I mean):

Always keep your drone in sight

And with the amount of lights on a Mavic, this shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, you could probably fly even further out at night as you’ll see the lights on the drone much better :slight_smile:

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Following on from @PingSpike’s post - Re PfCO holders, the simple addition of a couple of paragraphs in their Ops Manual would allow night flying. This is the extract from my Ops Manual which covered this point: -

"4.1 Night Operations

Where a client request entails a flight operation to be undertaken at night, (the company) will strictly adhere to the current UK CAA requirements for night-time SUAS operations to accommodate the client’s needs whilst carrying out the operation with safety remaining as a paramount concern.

CAP 393 Schedule 1 (Interpretation) defines ‘day’ as meaning the time from half an hour before sunrise until half an hour after sunset (both times exclusive), sunset and sunrise being determined at surface level; similarly, it defines ‘night’ as meaning the time from half an hour after sunset until half an hour before sunrise (both times inclusive), sunset and sunrise being determined at surface level.

To that end, whilst undergoing night operations (the company’s) flight crews will comply with the following: -

a) A site suitability survey as per 4.11 of this Operations Manual must be carried out in daylight hours to assess any possible hazards/obstacles to the intended flight.
b) The SUSA must be fitted with sufficient, additional artificial lighting to enable the PIC to maintain visual line of sight (VLOS).
c) The take-off and landing areas must be illuminated with adequate daylight coloured illumination prior to take-off and throughout the intended flight operation.
d) All SUSA builds, pre- and post-flight checks must be carried out under the above type of daylight coloured artificial illumination.
e) The PIC must ensure that sufficient trained spotters/observers are used to ensure flight safety and to ensure that situational awareness is maintained. The use of two-way radios is vital to maintain communication between the PIC and spotters/observers.
f) The PIC will ensure that all ‘standard daylight procedures’ covered in 4.12, 4.13 and
4.14 of this Operations Manual will be maintained.
g) The PIC must ensure that special attention is paid to obtaining an as accurate weather forecast for the site for the flight time as possible via 4.10 to mitigate the effect of any rapid changes in weather that cannot be visually anticipated as would be possible in daylight."

With regards to non PfCO holders then the Drone Code and the latest ANO applies, in that the pilot in charge must believe that the flight can be carried out safely. This is a subjective belief but would be objectively assessed (by the CAA) if the flight was ever challenged. My advice would be to follow a)-g) above to cover this possible problem.

Hope this assists.emphasized text

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It certainly does - thanks for the comprehensive Ops Manual wording :+1: As a client request, it hasn’t come up as yet, and to be honest it wasn’t something I’d envisaged doing.

Do you mind if I ask if you’ve done a few, and in general how have you felt about night flying?

Thanks Rich - it’s interesting for me to hear the views out there.

What originally prompted the question was a video I saw on the ‘other’ Mavic forum :wink: where someone was flying at night, and they hit a wire. It just got me wondering as to how may people fly at night, how they decide it’s ok to do so, and if they do what steps they take to keep everything safe

“Fail to prepare - Prepare to fail!” … simple. :wink:

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For personal reasons I didn’t fully complete my PfCO but my Ops Manual was assessed by my course instructor as perfect to get through the CAA. Consequently I haven’t done any commercial night flights but have done some personal ones.
The best advice I could give, in order to significantly reduce stress and accidents is to do a daytime visit to the site and male a physical note of any obstructions, wires, high buildings, etc., which would have an impact on the flight and plan the flight route accordingly. Having an observer, I use my son-in-law (another hobby pilot), will also reduce stress.
The first time will be a “half a crown and sixpence” on your bum but if you prepare well it becomes almost second nature. I’ve done around 15 night flights without any mishap.

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Thanks for the additional info. Sounds like you’ve got a process that works well for your night flights.

On the topic of night flying and Ops Manuals - I did my PfCo towards the end of last year, and my Ops Manual content was provided as part of my NATS-run course. In the draft Ops Manual wording, they specifically excluded night flying, and explicitly put daylight-only operations. I’m now wondering if this is just the (entirely understandable) normal NATS approach towards flying - we had the opportunity to suggest changes to the wording in the manual but at the time night flying wasn’t really on my radar.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone else reading this thread who has current CAA Permission for night flying, and if you do, do you follow such an approach as set out by BCF (sorry, don’t know your first name!) for night time flight operations?

Cheers

Dave

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Hi Dave - it’s Barry.

I’m sorry to say that it sounds like your course provider was completely inflexible re your Ops manual. It is, after all, your personal contract with the CAA with regard to how you are going to conduct your business. The course provider can only provide advice and should not, must not, dictate what goes into it.

If you need to run night time operations commercially, and I note that you haven’t been asked to do so yet, you can amend YOUR Ops manual to cover such activities. Once this has been done you do not need to wait for the renewal date in order to carry out such flights. When the renewal date arrives send your amended Ops manual off to the CAA for formal ratification - just make sure that you cover all bases.

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Nice to ‘meet’ you, Barry :slight_smile:

Good point on it being ‘my’ Ops Manual - personally, I’m not too upset that the NATS template is worded the way it is - they are who they are after all. The PfCO course they delivered was excellent, and I can’t fault them in any other way. The only thing it’d done was confuse me on the legality or otherwise of night flying, and we’ve now sort that :slight_smile:

Thanks again for your input, and happy flying!