At a recent Commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, a Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) attorney, Dean Griffiths, explained that the top three requests for Part 107 commercial drone operations waivers were for night operations, operations over people, and flight beyond visual line of sight. For operations over people and flights beyond visual line of sight, the FAA plans to release a proposed rule by the end of this year. But with requests for night operations waivers swarming the FAA, the FAA is trying to address that issue now, especially since night operations may be less of a safety concern than flights over people or beyond visual line of sight.
So why are drone operations so important at night? Well, with thermal imaging for drones so accessible and advanced, a drone does not need to fly during the day to capture imaging. And many of the applications for drones are BETTER when flown at night. For example, roof inspections to detect temperature variations that can identify problems are better done at night because the sun has stopped warming the surface; surveillance of infrastructure or property at night is more critical because fewer staff are needed to provide security; search and rescue is also often needed at night.
Given that the technology is available (and the general public is nervous about drones flying overhead above crowds), night operations will become increasingly important to commercial drone operations. The FAA will likely move it up on on its priority lists especially since it is seeing more and more wavier requests.