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Strobe VLOS range test summary- day and night

vindibona1

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I've been using a range of Firehouse strobes for the past several months and own an Arc II, a few smaller of their cree strobes (red/green) and now several Arc V strobes. I started using strobes 99% of the time when I recognized that I'd lose sight of my drones (especially my Mini) easily. Lately I've had a few opportunities to fly without any visual obstruction at all (mostly over water) and took note of when I could no longer clearly see my drones, both day and night. The difference between keeping VLOS day or night is almost staggering, but not surprising.

For the most part now, I use the Firehouse Arc V strobes, usually mounting the main on the bottom, a red/green on the front arms (for visual orientation) and often one on the top. To be honest, the one that really counts is the one on the bottom. That's the one you'll be able to see from any position.

Daylight overcast (no sunny tests yet):
I've done two different distance tests during the daylight hours. I'm not sure how the cloud/sun conditions aided or hindered my ability to see my strobed drones. But in the two tests I've done I was able to clearly see my drone 1200' away and another time 1600' before it disappeared in the distance. More commentary later.

Night flights: Seeing the strobes at night allows a MUCH longer distance keeping a drone in sight. Just the other night I flew out 10,000 before I really couldn't see it any more. I had done a previous flight and had taken it out 8,000 ft and it was still clearly in sight, but didn't go further because the missions wasn't about seeing how far I could see the strobe and brought it home because of battery life, not VLOS.

The FAA approved strobes have to be visible for 3nm and Firehouse claims that the Arc V rated at 1000 lumens can achive that (as Lume Cube's 500 lumen claims as well). I have to believe that the strobes are bright enough to be seen at 3 miles, but their size is what make them disappear before 3 miles. But still, 10,000 feet is nothing to sneeze at to be able to actually see your drone unaided.

I haven't done any testing with only a top-mounted strobe, but from a VLOS standpoint I would have to believe that the drone itself at elevation would eclipse most or all of the strobe and make it harder for the pilot to spot. At night, minimally I use both top and bottom to make sure that both aircraft and I have the best vantage point to see my drones in flight. But for those wanting mainly to help keep and eye on your drone, bottom mount is the way to go. JMO/YMMV
 

Tony McDrone

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I have the Firehouse arc v. The visibility at 3 miles during night flight is amazing and that’s as far out as I flew because I would’ve needed to cross an interstate to continue. But without a doubt, I easily would’ve been able to see them at a much greater distance. They are guaranteed by Firehouse Technology to be FAA Compliant and have visibility in excess 4 statue miles.

If you fly at night, I’d highly recommend these lights.
 

Thomas B

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I too use the Firehouse ARC XLs exclusively now... 4 on my drone arms in aircraft distribution of colors. Definitely increases VLOS.
 
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One point that your 10000 presumably feet drove home to me is.....
whilst you might be able to discern that the flashing light is your drone, do/did you have even the foggiest idea if there is/was anything else up there near your drone?
As a matter of interest, from sight of the strobe/s at 10,000x could you tell the drone's orientation? I think being able to discern orientation, most likely without the aid of the screen, is part of the FAA requirements
 

vindibona1

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One point that your 10000 presumably feet drove home to me is.....
whilst you might be able to discern that the flashing light is your drone, do/did you have even the foggiest idea if there is/was anything else up there near your drone?
As a matter of interest, from sight of the strobe/s at 10,000x could you tell the drone's orientation? I think being able to discern orientation, most likely without the aid of the screen, is part of the FAA requirements
Fogggggiest notion? There are a couple of presumptions that one has to make. 1) The buildings immediately (a relative term, but much too far to permit me to go above 400' AGL) to the west were 90+ story plus buildings, so I cannot imagine any fixed wing aircraft 400' or below. 2) IF all aircraft complied with the FAA 3nm collision avoidance lights, then I would have been able to see them. 3) I was standing on the bank of a small "penninsula" with nothing between me and my drone but open water. To give you a better perspective of my view, below find two screen grabs. You can see from the one (city to the right) that I was well over the water, unobstructed, standing about midway on the longer stretch of land. The image pointing away gives another viewpoint as I flew away, but at 10,000' further out over the water and to the right of where the images cuts off.

There were outgoing airplanes from O'Hare to the west that I could see, but their paths did not cross overhead, and almost exactly 10nm, right at the very edge of Class B space with a floor of 3000' MSL (roughly 2400'AGL). It appears that I am well into Class G space

Foggggiest notion? As unfoggy as humanly possible with all precautions taken. Orientation? Yes, from the map in the lower corner of my screen which I keep on all the time. I have red/green strobes on the front arms, so can get a direct visual when much closer than 10,000', but that far out only the white strobe was discernable.

1608665707458.png


1608666318759.png

1608667725240.png
 
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CactusJackSlade

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........Orientation? Yes, from the map in the lower corner of my screen which I keep on all the time. I have red/green strobes on the front arms, so can get a direct visual when much closer than 10,000', but that far out only the white strobe was discernable.....
I think there is an argument that you must be able to control the drone and maintain VLOS. VLOS is pointless unless one can pilot the craft. If you lose your downlink due to app crash or just bad signal (which I have a few times) how would one go about retrieving their drone if you cannot see the "orientation compass" on? I guess one would have to depend on the RTH function. Not being argumentative, just bringing up a very real scenario.
 

vindibona1

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I think there is an argument that you must be able to control the drone and maintain VLOS. VLOS is pointless unless one can pilot the craft. If you lose your downlink due to app crash or just bad signal (which I have a few times) how would one go about retrieving their drone if you cannot see the "orientation compass" on? I guess one would have to depend on the RTH function. Not being argumentative, just bringing up a very real scenario.
There weren't really any issues beyond the risk of, for whatever reason the drone would go into the water and be unrecoverable, which State Farm probably wouldn't be really happy about. But I had strong signal all the way, and under the conditions of absolutely no obstructions could have gone much much further out, were it not for battery and wanting to stay within VLOS. The moment I couldn't see it any more I hit RTH. And btw, if you ever lose orientation RTH is a simple and easy way to regain it, even if you keep it in that mode momentarily. Once you know where it's headed you can go back into manual mode. I recognize that I am relatively new to flying and my skill level isn't of a truly experienced pilot, but I always try to stay within my ability and when I push the envelope always in small measured amounts.

BTW... I have some Yagis and a parabolic "range extender" in the case but didn't even consider using them. When my drone made it home it was saying 19% left, but while not freezing it was cold and I'm not sure if I could have gone much farther out and still made it back.
 
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Dbez1

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Thanks for the information. It’s very helpful. I asked Santa for a firehouse strobe for my MM.?
 

vindibona1

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Thanks for the information. It’s very helpful. I asked Santa for a firehouse strobe for my MM.?
I think you're going to like it. One word of premptive caution. Be gentle on the switch. It doesn't require a lot of pressure to turn on and off. I had the occasion to dissect an Arc V and the switch is held in place by two very thin soldering joints to the circuit board with the battery acting as an opposing support. The way it's constructed it wouldn't take a lot to break it.
 
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Tony McDrone

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I think you're going to like it. One word of premptive caution. Be gentle on the switch. It doesn't require a lot of pressure to turn on and off. I had the occasion to dissect an Arc V and the switch is held in place by two very thin soldering joints to the circuit board with the battery acting as an opposing support. The way it's constructed it wouldn't take a lot to break it.
That’s great advice. I have a light with a broken on/off switch. It costs too much to repair, and not worth replacing since it was an extra light. I had it for only 3 months with nighttime moderate use before the switch failed.
 

vindibona1

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That’s great advice. I have a light with a broken on/off switch. It costs too much to repair, and not worth replacing since it was an extra light. I had it for only 3 months with nighttime moderate use before the switch failed.
I had one that came with the switch already broken off. Firehouse replaced the strobe immediately, but with their permission to explore what was wrong I pulled the casing off and discovered what the issue was. Consequently I am advising all not to let your pet gorilla turn your strobe on and off :).
 

judell

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Great review. Thank you. I have a Mini. Right now Firehouse has the Arc V on sale. Would you recommend it? If so which color for the flashing light? Again, thanks for the help
 

vindibona1

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Great review. Thank you. I have a Mini. Right now Firehouse has the Arc V on sale. Would you recommend it? If so which color for the flashing light? Again, thanks for the help
Arc V recommendation? Absolutely. If only one strobe get white. You may note that I have smaller Firehouse strobes on the front legs in red and green for orientation, but they are not that critical. For distance viewing the red and green lights are more difficult to see. I have Arc V r/g lights on my Mavic 2.

With a Mini mounting an Arc, V on the bottom can be a little tricky, but I do it. The Arc II has a Mini mounting kit for bottom mounting but I like my method which is a little bit trickier to accomplish on a Mini. [read on if interested]

I have placed strips of female velcro around the on/off button and battery life indicator. This is where I mount my strobe. The natural question is; wouldn't this block the on/off button? Yes it would. But there is a work-around. Place a small velcro patch on top of your Mini to "park" the strobe when setting it up to fly. Turn the Mini on, then remove the strobe from the top, turn it on, then place it on the bottom and you're good to go. It is important to note that with any bottom mount you will need leg extensions, which I recommend on the Minis anyway. I leave the leg extension on all the time and only remove them when I install prop guards for flying indoors.

IMG-3582.JPG IMG-3580.JPG IMG-3581.JPG IMG-3583.JPG
 

judell

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Arc V recommendation? Absolutely. If only one strobe get white. You may note that I have smaller Firehouse strobes on the front legs in red and green for orientation, but they are not that critical. For distance viewing the red and green lights are more difficult to see. I have Arc V r/g lights on my Mavic 2.

With a Mini mounting an Arc, V on the bottom can be a little tricky, but I do it. The Arc II has a Mini mounting kit for bottom mounting but I like my method which is a little bit trickier to accomplish on a Mini. [read on if interested]

I have placed strips of female velcro around the on/off button and battery life indicator. This is where I mount my strobe. The natural question is; wouldn't this block the on/off button? Yes it would. But there is a work-around. Place a small velcro patch on top of your Mini to "park" the strobe when setting it up to fly. Turn the Mini on, then remove the strobe from the top, turn it on, then place it on the bottom and you're good to go. It is important to note that with any bottom mount you will need leg extensions, which I recommend on the Minis anyway. I leave the leg extension on all the time and only remove them when I install prop guards for flying indoors.

View attachment 120112 View attachment 120111 View attachment 120113 View attachment 120114
Arc V recommendation? Absolutely. If only one strobe get white. You may note that I have smaller Firehouse strobes on the front legs in red and green for orientation, but they are not that critical. For distance viewing the red and green lights are more difficult to see. I have Arc V r/g lights on my Mavic 2.

With a Mini mounting an Arc, V on the bottom can be a little tricky, but I do it. The Arc II has a Mini mounting kit for bottom mounting but I like my method which is a little bit trickier to accomplish on a Mini. [read on if interested]

I have placed strips of female velcro around the on/off button and battery life indicator. This is where I mount my strobe. The natural question is; wouldn't this block the on/off button? Yes it would. But there is a work-around. Place a small velcro patch on top of your Mini to "park" the strobe when setting it up to fly. Turn the Mini on, then remove the strobe from the top, turn it on, then place it on the bottom and you're good to go. It is important to note that with any bottom mount you will need leg extensions, which I recommend on the Minis anyway. I leave the leg extension on all the time and only remove them when I install prop guards for flying indoors.

View attachment 120112 View attachment 120111 View attachment 120113 View attachment 120114
Thanks
 

Barbara

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Good information Vindibona. I've thought about getting a strobe, but would really like to be able to turn it on or off in flight. There is, unfortunately, nothing out there with that feature. I'm not really concerned with night flying, but would like a strobe to help my tired old eyes locate the drone more easily.
 

judell

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Exactly my reason to get one. Right now firehouse has a sale on Arc V. Great advice from Vindibona
 

vindibona1

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Are people allowed to fly there? As long as it's out over the water rather than over the buildings?

Did you take off from the edge of the water?

Are people allowed to fly at twilight or in the dark in that area?
Yes. RECREATIONALLY you can fly in Chicago as long as you follow the rules. Flying commercially is a whole nother thing. Yes, flying RECREATIONALLY at night is permitted providing you use "anti-collision lights" which the FAA would specifiy could be seen for 3 nautical miles. The Arc V strobes qualify to satisfy the requirement.

As a Part 107 licensed pilot I have tacit permission to fly 400' above any building or structure that I am within 400' of. But just because I can doesn't mean I should or will. My skills are still developing so I don't go farther or higher or closer to stuff than I'm comfortable with and definitely VLOS. I think the highest I've ever flown in 500' AGL though legally I could have flown much higher. I stay far away from anything unless I'm right on top of it for DIRECT line of sight.

I took off from a clear area about 150' from the bank away from the water and then walked to the bank for unobstructed VLOS. If you look at the first photo (above reply) and see that first line of lights across, then subdivide that strip of land in half, you'll find me about dead center to the strip, right on the bank.
 

raymairjr

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I've been using a range of Firehouse strobes for the past several months and own an Arc II, a few smaller of their cree strobes (red/green) and now several Arc V strobes. I started using strobes 99% of the time when I recognized that I'd lose sight of my drones (especially my Mini) easily. Lately I've had a few opportunities to fly without any visual obstruction at all (mostly over water) and took note of when I could no longer clearly see my drones, both day and night. The difference between keeping VLOS day or night is almost staggering, but not surprising.

For the most part now, I use the Firehouse Arc V strobes, usually mounting the main on the bottom, a red/green on the front arms (for visual orientation) and often one on the top. To be honest, the one that really counts is the one on the bottom. That's the one you'll be able to see from any position.

Daylight overcast (no sunny tests yet):
I've done two different distance tests during the daylight hours. I'm not sure how the cloud/sun conditions aided or hindered my ability to see my strobed drones. But in the two tests I've done I was able to clearly see my drone 1200' away and another time 1600' before it disappeared in the distance. More commentary later.

Night flights: Seeing the strobes at night allows a MUCH longer distance keeping a drone in sight. Just the other night I flew out 10,000 before I really couldn't see it any more. I had done a previous flight and had taken it out 8,000 ft and it was still clearly in sight, but didn't go further because the missions wasn't about seeing how far I could see the strobe and brought it home because of battery life, not VLOS.

The FAA approved strobes have to be visible for 3nm and Firehouse claims that the Arc V rated at 1000 lumens can achive that (as Lume Cube's 500 lumen claims as well). I have to believe that the strobes are bright enough to be seen at 3 miles, but their size is what make them disappear before 3 miles. But still, 10,000 feet is nothing to sneeze at to be able to actually see your drone unaided.

I haven't done any testing with only a top-mounted strobe, but from a VLOS standpoint I would have to believe that the drone itself at elevation would eclipse most or all of the strobe and make it harder for the pilot to spot. At night, minimally I use both top and bottom to make sure that both aircraft and I have the best vantage point to see my drones in flight. But for those wanting mainly to help keep and eye on your drone, bottom mount is the way to go. JMO/YMMV
Great summary, I have 3 of the ARC V lights ordered, White, Green, Red - they arrive on Thursday, can't wait to try.
 
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