FoxFury attended its first InterDrone conference at the beginning of this month. It was a fast paced week in Las Vegas where we learned a great deal interacting with commercial drone professionals from around the world.
After the show concluded, FoxFury was able to sponsor and participate in the Night UAV Flight Workshop (#nightUAVflight). This workshop consisted of classroom instruction followed by hands-on night flying experience in the field.
Douglas Spotted Eagle demystified Article 107.29, which covers the rules of night flight. This informative session outlined the do’s and don’ts of night flight and taught users how to safely and effectively fly at night.
After that, we were off to the Seven Magic Mountains (7MM), a remote art installation located 30 minutes southwest of Las Vegas, NV. The 7MM are 7 towers of stacked, colorful boulders ranging from 25-35 ft (7-9m) tall.
Each class participant was tasked with flying a Yuneec Typhoon H or H520 drone at night with lights attached. Three separate launch stations were set up approximately 100+ft (30m) from each other. The most experienced pilots flew at 150ft (45m) high while less experienced pilots flew at either 100ft (30m) or 50ft (15m) high. All drones launched from a Hoodman drone launch pad whose border was outlined with green LEDs for visibility.
The goal was to practice flying at night while trying to get within a certain distance of the 7MM. However, night flights are more challenging than daytime flying because vision of obstacles and surroundings is reduced and depth perception is compromised. Other special considerations are needed when flying at night. These include:
• Avoiding Light Pollution. This is achieved by wearing sunglasses and using red filters and red lights around work areas.
• Drone lighting must be visible from 3 statute miles.
Light pollution is a big deal as it can take 30 minutes for your eyes to readjust if night vision is lost. Red lights were therefore used near the drone launch sites and red gel filters were used to protect drone controllers. Some participants even wore sunglasses as an added level of protection. The drones were outlined with white lights to help illuminate the ground.
The distance between the launch sites and the rocks was 330 ft (100 m). The launch site area was red light only (save for the white and multicolored directional lights on the drone) to preserve night vision. The 7MM were brightly illuminated, which is where FoxFury literally and figuratively shined at this event.
Being a remote installation, there was no power, lighting or amenities at the site. The nearest electrical outlet is probably 5 miles away and an uneven dirt road needs to be traversed to get to them. ALL lighting used at the 7MM had to be:
- Battery powered: The lead instructors and Air bosses were in constant communication with the field observers to gather critical safety data. This includes who is in the air, how close drones were to one another and how close they were to the mountains. Because depth perception is greatly hindered at night, this communication back and forth was critical to ensuring the safety of all persons and property on site. Generators produce noise, which would have made communication quite challenging. For that reason, generator powered lighting was not an option.
- No extra trip hazards: Visual observers down below had to follow the drones as they flew in orbits and other patterns. Given the height of each of the 7MM, each observer had to walk or safely jog around the mountains to ensure operating safe distances. The ground at this site wasn’t flat and there were plenty of low lying rocks, bushes and other trip hazards. Cords (along with any other trip hazards) would have resulted in safety risks.
- Easy to Transport: Given the 300+ ft to travel to set up lights, lights used had to be compact and lightweight enough to safely be transported to the 7MM site. Given the distance and uneven terrain, rolling carts and heavy equipment would have been challenging. In order to avoid light pollution (white light aimed directly at pilots), lights needed to be aimed at the rocks only and not towards the launch site. Lights had to be moved a little here and there as necessary so as to not interfere with night to reduce blinding.
In all, 14 FoxFury Nomad Series lights were used to illuminate the 7MM. For details on how and where lights were used, click here.
Thanks to Chance Wiggins, Douglas Spotted Eagle, Jennifer Pidgen, James Spear, Jack Spear and every volunteer and participant in the event. It wouldn’t have been as successful or educational without you.