Night Flights: Drone 13 Cleared to Fly After Dark

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DES MOINES, Iowa – WHO 13 has been using drones as a newsgathering tool since 2016. Aerial photography adds a perspective and sense of scale to events a camera on the ground can’t capture. I have flown about 1,500 times – but until April 21st I had always landed within 30 minutes after sunset and not taken off again until 30 minutes before sunrise. That was the rule for Part 107 certified pilots. I’m one of those.

The rules for operating drones commercially have been a little complicated and a little restrictive. Those familiar with Part 107 know pilots could apply for a waiver -really permission – from the Federal Aviation Administration, to fly at night. WHO 13 has one of those waivers but we haven’t used it because the requirements made it impracticable. A crew of three – who have all had special training – scout the location during daylight and only in locations that are at least 5 miles from an airport – not exactly news friendly.

Flying for a responsible corporation and a paycheck has meant following the rules. A recent change in those rules has simplified operating a drone at night. As of April 21st, I can choose to fly Drone13 at night as long as I can see the drone and I have a flashing light on the drone that can been seen 3 miles away. Of course, if I don’t think I can fly safely – day or night – I won’t. If I need help from another set of eyes I won’t fly without that additional person. Safety is the highest priority.

This video was recorded April 21 around 9 pm. I wanted to get some experience at night and I’ll go out at night several more times, in various locations, just to practice. I know there will be breaking news after dark and if drone video will help tell the story I want to be prepared to fly safely and record high quality video.

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