Why Do Drones Have Red and Green Lights?

Drone operation is an increasingly popular activity that people partake in for recreational and professional pursuits. If you’ve ever flown a drone or have observed one of these devices in action, you’ve probably noticed that all drones come equipped with red and green lights. So what exactly is the purpose behind these lights, and what benefit do they have?

The primary reason drones have red and green lights is to increase their visibility to ensure the safety of everybody in the area. These navigational strobe lights are required by law in order to ensure that a drone remains fully visible at all times to mitigate the risk of an accident occurring.

Anyone who owns a drone, like this DJI Mavic Air 2 unit from Amazon.com, has a responsibility to operate their aircraft in a way that ensures their own safety as well as the safety of anyone in the area they’re flying in. Read on to learn more about how the red and green lights on your drone help to make flying more safe and secure.

DJI Mavic 2 pro drone with spare batteries

How Do Lights Make Drones Safer?

Federal Aviation Authority requirements stipulate that unmanned aircraft must be visible to an observer unaided by any additional visual equipment (other than standard corrective lenses) in order for operating that aircraft to be legal. But what is the reasoning behind this requirement? Here are some of the ways that drone lights allow for the safe operation of a drone.

Increased Visibility to Other Aircraft

Just like there are traffic rules that work to make navigating the road by car as safe as possible, there are also regulations that govern airspaces. These regulations allow for various aircraft to share the skies while minimizing the risk of an accident such as a collision from occurring. 

Drones and other unmanned aircraft are subject to their own set of regulations to ensure their safe operation. This includes the requirement for red and green lights to be active and visible at all times. Ensure any drone that you plan to fly meets this requirement to reduce the risk of interfering with aircraft flying in your area.

Signal to Other Drone Operators

drone by plane

Pilots flying aircraft in the area aren’t the only ones who benefit from being alerted to the presence of your drone. These signal lights also let professional drone operators and drone hobbyists in the area know that your unit is currently flying so that they can plan accordingly.

Crowded skies can lead to unfortunate issues such as collisions between drones. There can also be problems such as signal interference, or the goal a drone operator has in mind may simply require space free of other drones. By making your drone easily visible to other operators, you’ll be able to avoid these issues.

Allows Orientation To Be Determined

The lights on your drone aren’t only for ensuring that the unit is visible to any other aircraft sharing the skies with it. These lights are also positioned in such a way that they can be used to determine the direction that the drone is traveling.

Observers being able to determine the orientation of your drone is crucial for maintaining safety in the airspace that you’re flying in. By being able to recognize the drone’s heading by observing the placement of the lights the drone is equipped with, your drone’s movements will be easier to anticipate so other craft in the skies around you can maneuver accordingly.

What Other Meanings Could Lights on a Drone Have?

While visibility and navigation are the primary reasons behind the red and green lights you see on your drone, there are other possible reasons that you might see lights on your drones. These are some of the common causes you might see lights activated on your drone. Consult information from the manufacturer of your particular model for specific details.

Low Batteries

Drones require charged batteries to power the functions they use to maneuver through the skies. Many models come with rechargeable batteries to reduce costs and maximize convenience for the operator. It’s necessary to recharge these batteries from time to time to give the drone the power it needs to fly.

Most drones will warn you if the battery life begins to fall below optimal levels. Often, this warning comes in the form of a specific color or pattern of lights flashing to alert you that battery levels are running low. Pay attention when this warning shows up so you can recharge your drone’s batteries before its next flight.

Charging drone smart batteries

Beginner Mode

Certain drones might come with different flying modes intended to increase accessibility for operators of all skill levels. Certain processes may be automated in beginner mode to allow an inexperienced operator to gain familiarity in a more forgiving situation.

Drones with this function often use different colored lights to signal which mode the drone is currently flying in. Consult your manufacturer to learn the specific signals your drone uses so you can fly the way that best suits your skill level.

IMU Error

A device known as an IMU, or inertial measurement unit, is one of the critical components that your drone needs to fly. Using one or more accelerometers as well as a variety of other gauges, this unit allows the drone to regulate its speed and detect directional changes to its pitch, yaw, or roll.

This unit must be properly calibrated in order to allow for accurate maneuvering of the drone. If the drone detects that there is an issue with its IMU, most units are capable of providing you with a warning so that you can correct any issues that arise. Be sure to address any concerns that are brought to your attention promptly to ensure that the drone can be flown accurately.

Final Thoughts

If you’re interested in flying a drone, such as this Zuhafa drone from Amazon.com, it’s imperative that you follow any regulations regarding the safe operation of these aircraft. Making sure that your drone is easily visible and equipped with the signal lights required by law is one important step to responsible flying.

With the right information on your side, you’ll be ready to make the most out of your drone. Remember to fly smart and keep the skies safe for everybody.


I'm Rob, the founder of theonetechstop.com. I’m a Marine Corps vet with a master’s degree in Information Systems and have been working in the technology field for over a decade.

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