PhotoFlight Aerial Media successfully tested 100W ultra-bright LED Drone light to expand the scope of night photography and video services offered to clients.
Our Team at PhotoFlight Aerial Media, a nationwide drone service provider, has recently been granted an FAA waiver allowing the company to operate drones at night. The current UAS regulations only allow commercial drone operations during daylight and civil twilight hours, and special FAA waiver is needed to fly drones outside of these times. On top of being able to provide our clients and partners with amazing long exposure night photographs and video, we are also developing a production grade “flying light”. While mounting an LED on a drone is not really a big deal, we are on a mission of getting to an extremely powerful light, enough to be useful for video production set lighting, as well as illuminating large areas for long exposure night photographs. The first step of this project was getting a single high power LED light in the air. We chose a cool white 100W LED, rated at 8,000 Lumens and 6,000K. It is powered from the drone battery (6 Cell LiPo), with a step-up module boosting the voltage to 30V. 60 degree lens is used to focus the light. This light puts out some serious heat, so an aluminum heat sink and fan are added to keep the LED and the step-up module at ideal operating temperatures. The light is fitted to a Tarot T960 heavy-lift hexacopter, capable of up to 20 minute flight times with this relatively light payload. The LED is in brightness comparable to an LED street lamp. It provides enough light for video for up to about 60 feet, beyond this altitude it is able to light up large areas for long exposure night photographs from up to a few hundred feet (long exposure night photos require very small amount of light as the shutter speeds are very slow).
On the first test we have experienced a distinct yellow strip surrounding the white light spill, which was traced to a part of the LED frame showing around the edges of the reflector and was rectified. During this test, we pointed the drone light down to light a few different sections of a field to see the amount of usable light at different altitudes. For the next flight, we tilted the light forward (at roughly 45 degree angle) and tried lighting up a rock face with trees, followed by a few lower passes to see the “path illumination” and light spill in an overhead video (see video clip above). The long exposure photos and videos were taken by a Phantom 4 Pro.
Encouraged by the results of this initial test, we are planning to expand this light to a gimbal mounted array of 4-6 100W modules. Mounting the array on a gimbal allows us to control the light independently from the drone, in a same fashion as the camera is controlled in two operator drone setup. This will also enable us to provide our clients with high intensity dynamic aerial lighting.
- Dynamic and Static Lighting for video production sets.
- Lighting structures and landscapes for long exposure night photography.
- Establishing long distance (up to 3 miles) line of sight visibility for wireless infrastructure engineering projects.
- Possible Search and Rescue scenarios.
For more information on PhotoFlight Aerial Media Services: www.photoflightam.com
Photo Credit: John Woike
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