Spotting a Drone at Night: Effective Ways and Necessary Caveats

Is it possible to independently detect someone else’s drone in the dark? What if you lost your drone at night? Read our tips to quickly and effectively become a drone expert!
How to spot a drone at night

Safety is the main need in the life of every person. However, sometimes it is questioned when someone tries to use a drone to enter your private property to take photographs or track you.

In this article, we will tell you what are the main modern ways of detecting a drone in the dark on your own. We will also figure out what to do if you find someone else’s drone on your territory, and how to find your drone at night if you suddenly lost it.

So, sit back and get ready to become a drone detection expert in the dark.

How to spot a drone at night?

There are two main ways to detect a drone at night: using your senses (hearing and sight), or using technology — special drone detection apps, motion detection cameras, radars, and microwave sensors. After reading the article, you will choose the method that is right for you. In the meantime, let’s find out how the different types of drone detection work.

First way: using your senses

How to spot a drone at night

✨ Flashing lights

If you see a bright flashing light near your home or private area, do not rush to think that this is an illusion and your eyes are deceiving you. Take a closer look to see if it’s a drone. Any drone should be able to receive light at night, however, sometimes the lights can be so dim that they can even be difficult to distinguish in the dark unless you specifically monitor the drone.

The drone may have flashing or non-flashing lights, please keep this in mind. Surveillance drones have bright enough lights as they are designed to avoid collisions. The most popular colors for drone lights are red, green, white, but there may be others.

Usually, drones have two types of lights:

They are like the headlights of a car, only a drone. They do not flicker but shine in a straight line. These lights may not be as bright as real headlights, so it will take a little sweat to find them.

Anti-collision lights

Not all drones have this feature, but those that do will be easily detected. Such lights have a stroboscopic effect (a phenomenon due to interrupted illumination of a moving object) when driving, they can also be both fast and slow, depending on how the owner sets it up.

🔊 Distinct sounds 

While some drones can be impressively quiet, their propellers still emit a certain buzzing sound when flying. If you live in a quiet residential area, then you have every chance of finding a drone at night, just by listening to the sounds that surround you and your private territory. Sound waves usually bend downward at night, which contributes to the detection of drones and which is good news. 

Why is this happening? The speed of the sound wave depends on the air temperature: the wave is faster at high degrees and slower at low degrees. Thus, if you shout down from the mountain (where it is cooler) during the day, your sound will go up and no one will hear below. But if you shout across the lake at night, the sound wave will go down and you will be heard on the other side as clearly as if you are standing next to the person. This is called temperature inversion and occurs at night when the air is cooled from the ground. This principle helps to detect the drone: at altitude, the sound wave will go down towards you.

Second way: using technology

How to spot a drone at night with technology

📲 Using a drone detector application

Drones are becoming more invisible every year, but people are also becoming more inventive in their search. Using the app is one of the easiest and most affordable ways for everyone to detect a drone. On the Internet, you can find many free applications that can help you detect an unwanted guest: for example, Drone Watcher APP, AirMap for DronesDroneDeploy – Flight App DJI. The essence of such an application is that it has a database of registered drones and usually operates within half a mile from the drone.

The app picks up unencrypted wi-fi signals that the drone uses. These signals are then compared in a database to determine the exact location of the device. However, there is a limitation here that you should be aware of: some Wi-Fi signals are encrypted and the app will not be able to read them. There are also newer drones that use a different method of communication besides Wi-Fi.

📸 Using night-vision cameras with motion detection 

When installing cameras at home, we often choose those that have night vision. Motion detection is a powerful and critical drone detection feature that can be easily integrated into most cameras. Since most drones have flashlights, their lights, combined with movement, will activate your motion detection camera and you will immediately receive a notification on your phone when an intrusion has entered your territory. Place these cameras at higher viewpoints such as windows or balconies.

🎯 Using radar detectors

A more expensive but also more effective way of detecting drones is radar detectors. Their main advantages are that they scan the sky for drones in your area. No, no, they will not count birds as drones, since they can distinguish between them and maintain these differences. These radars pick up signals that bounce off the radar and also have motion detection capabilities. They have a large radius of movement, which helps in detecting enemy devices and can also control a large section of territory, and not just a specific place.

What to do if the drone is spying on you?
Radar can detect drones with a larger RCS at a greater distance than a drone with a small RCS. Typically, radar systems can detect drones up to 1 mile away: the range is affected by drone size.

🌊 Using microwave motion sensors

Motion sensors are usually placed on top of windows, where they create microwaves. It is a less expensive option than radar, but not less effective. You can think of the microwave as a tank with still water inside. When drone signals are detected, it will create an oscillating wave similar to an object falling into the water. So, any drone that flew into your private property will be easily detected.

🎙 Using acoustic sensors

If your area is quiet at night, you can use acoustic sensors to detect drones. Although these sensors are quite expensive, they have advantages that the technologies we mentioned above do not have. Their main plus is that they can detect drones with no communication signal or those that do not display signals properly.

Acoustic sensors can detect absolutely all kinds of spy drones, as even the quietest drones make a sound when their propellers are running. They do not trigger false alarms as they distinguish between drone noise and other sounds. Moreover, such sensors can not only detect the device but provide additional information about the drone model.

What to do if the drone is spying on you?

Using radar detectors

Let’s figure out what to do in a situation when you find a drone and understand that it spies you.

  • 1. Try to talk to the operator. You must understand that there are many reasons a drone can fly. They can be used for photographing real estate and other objects such as measuring solar panels and checking roofs. Therefore, ask the operator (the one who is filming) directly what he is doing. Professional drone operators are required by law to keep an eye on drones at all times and focus on protecting others in the region.

    If everything is ok, then he will tell you that he is filming, for example, for government purposes, etc., and he has no purpose to spy on you. If he does not answer, contact the police (step 4) to make sure that you are not being followed and that he has the right to fly in your area.
  • 2. Study neighborhood drone legislation. If something seems suspicious to you, you need to make sure that your claim falls under the law. There are also anti-burglary and anti-harassment laws that may apply to your situation. If you are confused by the volume of drone sound, you can check the local noise regulations in your area.
  • 3. Document your problem. If you have any problem with the drone, do not forget to write it down, what exactly is happening and where. Also note the exact date and time, as well as the make and model of the drone if it flies low and you can notice such details. Remember that most likely when you call the police, the drone will no longer be in place.
  • 4. Create a Report. Notify the police and perhaps even contact the FAA too.

How to find your drone that got lost at night?

How to find your drone that got lost at night?

If you need to find your drone lost at night, follow the next steps. If possible, try to wait until it is light, as it will be problematic to find a drone without lights in the dark.

If searching at night is simply necessary, then divide the area where the drone was lost into sections, call your friends to help, and be sure to grab a lot of torches. Also remember to leave the drone controller on, as it will connect to the drone when it is around. You can also use GPS technology to locate your drone and track it using an app on your phone.

Summary

There are two main methods for detecting a drone, using your senses and using technologies. You can always try to locate the drone with your own eyes and ears. However, if you want to protect your territory from an unplanned invasion reliably, it is better to use modern technologies to catch drones: drone detector application, night-vision cameras with motion detection, radar detectors, microwave motion sensors, and acoustic sensors.

FAQs

🎮 Is there a way to detect drones?

Yes, there are two main ways to detect a drone — using your senses (hearing and sight), and also using technology: drone detector application, night-vision cameras with motion detection, radar detectors, microwave motion sensors, and acoustic sensors. Find out more about these methods in our article!

👁 How do you tell if a drone is spying on you?

A surefire way to tell if the drone is spying on you is using radio signals to see what the drone is watching.

📲 Is there an app to detect drones?

The DroneWatcher APP turns your Android smartphone or tablet device into a drone and small UAV detector that detects, tracks, alerts and records information on ~95% of consumer drones. AirMap for iPhone or IPad is the leading global provider of aeronautical data & services to unmanned aircraft or drones.

🚨 Will a drone show up on the radar?

Yes, radar can detect all types of drones whether it uses RF communication, GPS, or Wi-Fi/Cellular communication. The size of the drone is the only limit to radar detection.

🚦 What color lights do drones have at night?

Almost all drones have lights: they can be seen at night as solid white, green, or red lights. Or they can be seen as blinking/strobe white, green, or red LEDs.

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3 comments
  1. Thanks for posting! It’s really awful when they spy on you! It is a pity that it is not always possible to punish drone owners.

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