Regular camera drones are most commonly used for aerial photography and videography, but night vision drones are mostly used for operations like surveillance. They use advanced thermal imaging cameras to produce images even in pitch black, making them hugely valuable to a whole range of industries.
In this guide, we reveal the best night camera drones on the market right now. We’ll cover all the key specs, so you’ll have all the info you need to pick out a drone that matches your needs. First, we’ll take a closer look at how night vision drones work and what they’re used for.
How do Night Vision Drones Work?
There are two main types of night vision drones – those that use infrared cameras and those that use thermal imaging cameras.
Infrared red cameras pick up infrared light, electromagnetic radiation which has a higher wavelength than visible light. These typically use an LED which emits infrared light for the camera to pick up. Most infrared cameras render images in grayscale.
Thermal imaging cameras, on the other hand, form images based on the heat energy of people, animals, objects, and materials. They can detect the differences in temperature of objects and don’t require any light source at all. Thermal imaging is generally regarded as a higher quality of night vision technology than infrared.
It’s important to distinguish between low-light camera drones and night vision drones. There are many regular camera drones that have low-light camera functionality built-in, making it easier to capture clear pictures in darker settings.
However, night vision is something entirely different. A low-light camera drone won’t be any use in the pitch black, but a night vision drone enables you to see in these conditions from a different perspective.
Night Vision Drone Uses
One of the main differences between night drones and most other drones is that night drones are not primarily used for photography and videography. After all, thermal imaging is a completely different kettle of fish to regular camera capabilities and simply isn’t much use to most aerial photographers.
That’s not to say that it can’t be used for these purposes, just that night visions are more commonly used for somewhat more practical purposes. For example, one of the most common applications is for surveillance purposes, both by private companies and law enforcement agencies.
Another interesting use of drones with night vision cameras is for wildlife protection, in which they’re used to observe species and help prevent illegal poaching that often takes place at night.
Thermal camera drones can also be used for a wide variety of purposes during the day. For example, the heat-seeking capabilities of these drones mean they’re used by energy companies to identify power line failures, by construction companies to identify thermal losses, and by civil security agencies in the prevention and management of natural disasters.
Night drones are much more expensive than regular drones due to the higher costs of infrared cameras. Some drones have a night vision camera built into them, while some companies have come up with alternative solutions by releasing separate thermal cameras that are compatible with certain drone models.
The Best Night Vision Drones to Buy
Now, let’s take a look at the best night vision drones on the market, starting with the most affordable and ending with the finest professional model.
Walkera F210 – Best Night Vision Drone for Racing
Not only is the Walkera F210 one of the more affordable night vision drones on the market, but it’s also one of the few that’s specifically designed for drone racing. So whether you’re a keen race or are just looking for an affordable night vision drone, this is a great choice.
This drone has a very impressive one million pixel camera with an HD night vision lens and high-performance sensors. The sensors adjust automatically depending on the brightness levels, and the chip switches to infrared surveillance mode in dark places.
We also have a ranking of the best racing drones
There’s no restriction to the amount of light needed to operate this drone, so you can fly it during the day or in the dead of night. You can also adjust the camera up to 120 degrees for a wide field of view. The F210 has a transmission distance of up to 800m for live video streaming.
As one of the highest-performance racing drones on the market, the F210 has a highly durable yet lightweight 3mm carbon frame, making it both robust and fast. The drone has a smart design for improved agility and maneuverability, so it has everything you need for high-speed FPV racing and aerobatics, as well as aerial photography.
However, while it’s very powerful, it’s also designed to be easy to fly even for beginners. For example, the LCD controller has low battery indication and signal alarm functions so that you can easily fly your drone back and avoid incidents.
This is one of the top-rated drones on Amazon with 4.5 stars — cementing it as one of the best drones with night vision capabilities around.
Parrot Anafi Thermal – Best Drone with Night Vision Camera Under $2,000
Parrot is one of the world’s biggest drone manufacturers and the Anafi is its flagship model. The Anafi Thermal is a modification that’s designed for professionals requiring a night vision drone.
This is a really high-performance drone with a night vision camera that is suitable for professional use across a wide range of industries, including surveillance, construction, energy, first aid, and civil security.
It has an ultra-compact and lightweight design for easy portability and maximum efficiency. It has a visible 4K HDR camera with a 21MP Sony sensor as well as a thermal camera that detects temperatures from -14°F to 752°F. The drone night camera, developed by leading thermal camera manufacturer FLIR, is capable of detecting hot spots, cold spots, and thermal leaks in pitch black conditions.
Weighing less than one pound, this drone boasts up to 26 minute flight time and is operational in under three seconds, a vital requirement for professional night vision drone users. It can resist winds up to 31mph and has a maximum working altitude of 4,500m above sea level, so it’s extremely versatile and can fly in all sorts of environments and conditions.
We recommend downloading the Freeflight 6 app on your phone to use with the Anafi Thermal as it offers some fantastic features. For example, using the app you can easily switch between RGB and thermal views and even merge the two for a more easily understandable rendering. Scenes are colored to reveal heat loss areas and thermal differences, and you can share footage in just a few seconds.
Finally, this night vision is also extremely quiet, making it particularly well suited to surveillance and animal observation.
DJI Phantom 4 Advanced + with FLIR Vue Pro R – Excellent DJI Drone with Night Vision Camera
DJI is the world leader when it comes to manufacturing high-end drones, and while it’s yet to make a dedicated drone with night vision and thermal camera, it has come up with several solutions through its partnership with leading thermal imaging technology company FLIR.
One of the best combinations from these two companies is DJI’s Phantom 4 drone with FLIR’s Vue Pro night vision camera.
The VUE Pro is designed for professional use and offers incredibly high-quality thermal imaging capabilities. For example, it has MAVLink compatibility that enables image geo-tagging, while the accessory port allows you to control the camera’s in-flight functions by integrating with the drone’s control system.
This camera is easy to configure and use with the FLIR UAS app. You can set color palettes and optimization features, and you can also easily configure PWM inputs from the palm of your hand.
It can operate in temperatures ranging from -4 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s very hardy and can be used in a wide range of different environments and challenging conditions. You can also fly it up to 40,000 feet high.
This camera pairs with the Phantom 4, which can reach speeds of up to 72kph and is incredibly easy to fly using the DJI app. It has a variety of intelligent flight features, including tap fly, active track, and altitude hold, which help you focus on capturing footage with the night vision camera while the drone flies.
DJI Inspire 2 with Zenmuse H20 – Best Long Range Drone with Night Vision
It certainly doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re looking for an unrivaled camera drone with added night vision capabilities, this combination is certainly worth checking out.
The Zenmuse H20 is an exceptional night vision drone camera that’s a product of DJI’s collaboration with thermal imaging technology company FLIR.
This camera combines DJI’s unrivaled gimbal and image transmission technology with the finest thermal imaging tech on the market. The result is the ability to capture rapid and reliable thermal imaging in an incredibly easy way.
The Zenmuse H20 boasts pinpoint precision for capturing footage over large areas which you can save for analysis and reporting later. It can take thermal images and record video simultaneously, which is really useful for professionals across a range of different industries.
You can choose from different color palettes as well as different scene modes according to different applications. The camera has a built-in automatic gain control function which automatically adjusts the contrast ratio and photometric imaging for clear and accurate footage.
The Zenmuse XT is designed for use with DJI’s Inspire 2 drone, which in itself is an exceptional model and has all the intelligent features and ease of use that is standard for DJI drones. You can fly the Inspire 2 for up to 21 minutes when it’s paired with the Zenmuse XT.
If this option is a bit out of your price range, you can save some cash by going for the older DJI Inspire 1 drone.