Hey there, fellow drone enthusiasts! Andrew Heaton here, and today, I’ve got a juicy topic for you. We’re diving into the world of anti-collision lights for drones, and trust me, it’s more important than you might think. With the FAA shaking things up and allowing night flights, these little beacons of light have become our best buddies in the sky. Let’s see what’s lighting up the drone world these days.
Table of Contents:
New FAA Rules Shed Light on Night Flights
It all started back on April 6, 2021, when the FAA decided to let drone pilots spread their wings and soar into the night sky without the need for a Daylight Operations Waiver. The catch? You’ve got to be trained and tested on night flight operations, and of course, your trusty drone needs an anti-collision light.
Shedding Light on the Why
You might wonder, why the fuss about these anti-collision lights? Well, it’s pretty simple – safety. The FAA’s got some rules, and these lights have to be seen for a whopping 3 statute miles. They can be red or white, and they should definitely blink. The main goal? Preventing airborne collisions.
Picture this: your drone zipping around, and suddenly, a plane or chopper comes into the picture. Without that blinking beacon of light, it’s like a game of hide and seek, and trust me, you don’t want to play that game at 400 feet in the air. So, these lights are our little heroes, alerting others to our presence and keeping the skies safe.
Orientation vs. Anti-Collision Lights
Many drones come with built-in orientation lights, you know, those little green and red flashes that help you figure out which way your drone’s facing when it’s nearby. But, here’s the kicker – once your drone’s 500-1,000 feet away, those cute little lights might as well be fireflies in a stadium. This is where the anti-collision lights step in, providing that 3-mile visibility that the FAA loves so much.
The Top Contenders – Firehouse ARC V vs. LumeCube Strobe
Now, if you’re in the market for a top-tier anti-collision light, two names keep coming up: the Firehouse ARC V and the LumeCube Strobe. Last year, I decided to do a little experiment and got my hands on both of these bad boys.
Unpacking the Goods
Right off the bat, I noticed a difference in their looks. The Firehouse ARC V has a neat rectangular shape with a clear top, showing off the circuit board. The LumeCube Strobe, on the other hand, rocks a diamond shape with a clear lens. The Firehouse ARC V boasts five LEDs, while the LumeCube Strobe has four.
Why the Extra LED Matters
You might be thinking, what’s one LED? Well, it makes a difference. That extra LED in the Firehouse ARC V means it’s more visible, and that’s a win when you’re aiming for safety in the sky. So, more is better in this case.
LumeCube’s Quality Edge
Now, at first glance, I got the impression that the LumeCube Strobe had put some real thought into their design. The white cover over the circuit board spoke of some solid R&D. It got me curious to see how this design choice would affect performance.
Let’s Talk Performance
I used these lights to keep track of my drone when I was mapping during the day. The LumeCube Strobe performed well, clearly visible even at 1,200 feet away. Then, I switched to the Firehouse ARC V, and it matched the performance. It was a tie – both shone brightly.
A Splash of Color
Here’s the twist – the Firehouse ARC V offers a white-only strobe, while the LumeCube Strobe lets you switch it up with red or green lens covers. This not only adds a dash of color to your drone but also helps with orientation and anti-collision lighting.
Both lights come with Velcro-style self-adhesive attachments, making them easy to slap on your drone. They’re removable, so you don’t have to worry about fitting your drone into its protective case. But wait, there’s more.
Firehouse’s Additional Options
If Velcro isn’t your jam, Firehouse offers plastic attachment clips that snap onto the drone. They’re removable too, ensuring your drone fits snugly in its case.
LumeCube, on the other hand, relies on the included hook-and-loop style attachments. It does offer a mounting system for their LumeCube 2.0 anti-collision lights, but that only plays nice with the DJI Mavic 2 series.
Both lights give you a range of strobe options. You’ve got the classic strobe, a slower blink called flash, and the steady-on option. The Firehouse ARC V adds a strobe/flash combo that’s FAA compliant. The steady-on mode is handy for drone orientation at night.
Lightweights vs. Medium-weights
Weighing in at 10 grams, the LumeCube Strobe is a lightweight champ, coming in 3 grams lighter than the Firehouse ARC V. Now, if your drone doesn’t need FAA registration (stay below 249g), you’ll want to watch that weight limit when picking your anti-collision light.
And the Winner Is…
Both lights perform admirably, with run times that will suit most pilots’ needs. The Firehouse ARC V boasts four and a half hours of runtime, while the LumeCube Strobe promises over two hours. The colored lenses that come with the LumeCube are a nice touch, but my money’s on the white strobe, which I find more versatile.
The ARC V’s On/Off Advantage
The deciding factor for me was the Firehouse ARC V’s on/off button. LumeCube’s light turns on with a simple three-second press on the top lens, which can accidentally turn on or off in your equipment bag, draining the battery. The Firehouse ARC V’s button is smaller and harder to accidentally press, making it a more practical choice.
While the LumeCube Strobe has some impressive design elements, I’m all about practicality and dependability. That’s why I lean towards the Firehouse ARC V. Its longer runtime, sturdier build, and on/off button won me over. Plus, knowing it’s made in the USA is a nice bonus.
Top Tips for Strobe Use
Before I wrap this up, here are some pro tips for using anti-collision lights:
- Own Multiple Lights: Using multiple lights on your drone makes it easier to keep track of its position.
- Make Sure It’s Off: Always check that your light is turned off when not in use to avoid draining the battery prematurely.
- Don’t Stare at It: That light is bright, folks. Avoid staring at it when it’s on, as it can mess with your night vision.
So, there you have it, the lowdown on FAA compliant anti-collision lights for your drones. Stay safe, stay visible, and happy flying, my fellow drone enthusiasts!
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