How can I make my drone more visible?

Most drone flying regulators require that you keep your drone in a direct line of sight. This regulation means that you should be able to identify your drone amongst the background environment easily. I don’t think I have heard of any drone pilot being specifically asked if they can identify their drone at a certain distance but being able to see your drone means that you can fly much more confidently.

You can make your drone by choosing a drone with a brighter colour, using a drone with a higher surface area, adding lights, adding decals and skins, adding reflective tape, using the propeller guards, and creating maximum contrast with your environment.

Making your drone more visible means that you will fly more confidently by ensuring that there is a lot of free space around the drone. I like to see completely free space around my drone, which allows me to avoid clipping trees, surfaces, or any other overhanging obstructions such as wires.

Here are all the ways you can make your drone more visible, as supported by my own experience and drone flying friends.

Buy a drone with more colour

One of the best ways to ensure that you can see your drone more readily is to choose a drone with a colour that contrasts with the environment you typically fly in. Drones come in various colours from black through to white and orange, green, grey and much more. They also have lights on the forward and rear-facing sides of the drone, which can help increase the visibility to a greater distance.

Choosing a drone with a colour that best contrasts your normal flying environment means looking at the colour wheel and choosing a drone with a colour opposite the natural backdrop.

Best colour for drone visibility

To understand which colour is best for drone visibility, we need to understand a little bit of colour science. Below is a breakdown of the colour wheel.

How can I make my drone more visible? [8 PROVEN WAYS]

the colour wheel includes the primary colours such as red, blue and yellow and arranges the secondary and tertiary colours around the colour wheel according to their relationship with these primary colours.

We can use this wheel to create maximum contrast between our environment and the drone we are flying. For example, if you are flying mainly in clear blue’s, an orange drone will stand out better against the natural backdrop of the blue sky. Alternatively, if you fly over green forests, you may choose a red drone to provide maximum contrast.

Here is a quick summary of the types of drones that could be best for your local environment:

Flying over waterOrange
Flying in the blue skyOrange
Flying over treesRed
Flying over red dirtGreen
Flying over Brown dirtBlue

You can see that there is now one colour which is best suited to all environments. That is where manufacturers have chosen black and white bodies to cover a range of different environments. If you regularly fly in a particular type of background colour, I recommend adding decals or purchasing a drone with contrasting colours.

Buy a drone with a higher surface area

Another option for people who want to make their drone more visible is to purchase a drone with a higher surface area.

Drones are becoming smaller and smaller, with pocket and foldable drones increasing in popularity. The decreasing size means that it can be hard to identify

if you are struggling to see your drone in the distance; it would help if you opted for purchasing a drone with a much broader surface area when viewed from below.

Typically, these drones are not portable or foldable, and they are bulkier to travel with. Drones with a solid form factor and a bulky frame include:

And any other fixed body drone.

The increased surface area will mean that you will fly further away from the controller whilst maintaining a direct line of sight with your drone.

Add more lights

My DJI Mavic Air comes with forward and rear-facing lights. They do not only tell me which direction the drone is pointing, but they also allow me to see what mode the drone is currently in. Different modes have different colours, so I know if I am in photography or video mode.

The colours are red, yellow, or green, and sometimes they flash. I find that the flashing lights are much easier to identify on a natural background, and it is probably why the majority of airborne vehicles have some form of Strobe lighting. It certainly makes the aircraft stand out.

Adding extra lights to your drone is also another way to make it stand out. You can use fixed lights or strobe lights, and I feel like strobe lights will be much more effective at making your drone stand out.

Fixed lights

Fixed lights are attached to the body or the arm of the drone using tape or plastic clasps. Typically fixed lights are for spotting animals and eliminating the path in front of the drone. You can buy several flashlight kits and lighting kits for many commercially available drones.

Many of the drone lights that are continually on also have a strobe function. The/function certainly makes the drone stand out better against a natural backdrop, and some of my favourite strobe lights are listed below.

Strobe lights

Strobe lights come in various colours, and you should choose the colour that best stands out against the backdrop of your natural flying environment. Here are some of the most popular strobe lights for a drone currently on the market.

Attaching to drone

there are two ways that you can attach lights to a drone: stickers and clasps. I recommend using plastic clasps as they are less likely to degrade over time and fall off your drone. They can also be transferred from one drone to another relatively easily if you decide to upgrade your drone.

I don’t particularly appreciate sticking anything to my drone, as it can be a bit of a pain to remove it in the future if you were to sell your drone.

Add decals and skins

If you cannot purchase a drone with your desired colour, you can increase its visibility by adding decals and skins to the drone body.

The decal can be an entire wrap for every part of the drone, or it can be individual shapes that you stick to various parts of your drone – typically the body and the arms.

Decals

There’s something cool about a customized drone. There are many sellers on Etsy that provide customizable skins for various DJI drones and other manufacturers. The decals not only look great but can also protect your drone from any damage and cover up any scratches or surface wear and tear that you want to hide.

The custom decals can be customized by contacting some of the merchants on Etsy, so reach out to them if you can’t find what you’re looking for. Decals are a fantastic way of making your drone yours and increase its visibility.

One of the most surprising and cost-effective ways of making my drone less attractive to bird attacks and increases its visibility is to add a bright decal, like this one on Amazon. It has helped me fly with more confidence.

Reflective tape

If you do not want to buy a decal specifically made for your drone, you can choose to use some reflective tape.

Can I put reflective tape on my drone?

You can select from a wide variety of different reflective tapes like these on Amazon – click here.

The great thing about using commercially available reflective tape is that you can also use different colours with your drone. You are not limited to the colours of a particular manufacturer’s drone wrap.

Reflective tapes can come in metallic, which is great for reflecting sunlight. It can be a bright colour with luminous components that are great for dusk flying and darker environmental backgrounds.

The reflective tape can also be used to make the orientation of your drone more obvious. Perhaps you could put green tape on the front and orange on the rear of the drone to help you identify the drone’s orientation.

Propeller guards

Propeller guards can also be used to make the drone more visible from a distance. Many of today’s commercially available drones come with a variety of different propeller guards that you can use when you’re first flying your drone. Not only do they keep beginner drone pilots safe, but they also allow you to increase the cross-sectional area of your drone when viewed from a distance.

Propeller guards may cause slight instabilities in high or medium strength winds. Most of the propeller guards are very lightweight and thin to avoid huge wind effects. However, it will change how your drone responds, so you have to be more careful.

Carry a payload

It is also possible to increase the visibility of your drone by carrying a payload. Commercial drones can carry up to 1 kg without significant issues. If you want to know how much a drone can carry, check out my other article – where I go through all of the different drones and link to sources where they test the maximum payloads.

Can you drop something from a drone?

You could carry a highly reflective or visible object during your flight.

You have to make sure that the object has a relatively high weight attached to the bottom. Otherwise, it could get sucked up into the propellers and cause you to crash. The payload could be a weighted ribbon, box, metallic object, strobe light, or another highly visible item.

The payload should be suspended approximately 1 m below the drone to keep it well away from the propellers.

If the payload is particularly heavy, it can also cause a pendulum effect on the drone and cause you to lose control in high winds or quick turns and acceleration.

Fly with the sun on your back

Another way to make your drone much more visible is to ensure that the sun can reflect off the drone’s body efficiently.

Drones that are white or brightly coloured rely on incident light from the sun to remain as visible as possible.

Positioning your drone away from the sun and having the sun behind you increases the amount of incident light that lands on the drone.

This light will improve the visibility of your drone and allow you to fly with a direct line of sight and further distances.

Flying your drone with the sun on your back will work for white and black drones of all models.

Getting to your takeoff spot and positioning yourself can be planned using Google maps and knowledge of the sun’s position and movement through the sky before you take off.

Create maximum contrast with the environment

Ultimately, you need to create a maximum amount of contrast between the drone and the natural environment. You can do that using colours, lights, and the reflection of incident light from the sun or another artificial source.

The more contrast you can create, the higher your ability to see your drones at larger distances. There is no particular hard and fast rule, and you may need to try several different approaches for creating the maximum amount of contrast. You may also need to combine multiple approaches such as colour and light for maximum effect.

Use the GPS map more often

Making sure that your drone is super visible can also be helped with technology. It would help if you never fly your drone out of the direct line of sight but using your GPS location displayed on the screen will help you make your drone much more visible.

Combining the physical features of the drone with a software guide to pinpoint the exact location and direction of the drone is the ultimate way of making your drone much more visible. If you know exactly where the drone is and what direction it is heading in, you will be able to say where your drone is in 3D space with much more confidence.

Using the first person view video stream is also another powerful way to increase your drones visibility. Using the video stream and direct line of sight, you should never use your drone amongst the environmental distractions.

Summary

This article has gone over everything you can do to make your drone much more visible. Keeping your drone in direct sight and using physical additions such as lights and different colours will increase visibility. Making sure that your drone has a maximum amount of contrast between the drone and the natural environment is the key to increasing the visible range.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. Andy started droneflyingpro.com to share his love and the research of all things drone! He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drone. His favorite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!