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So, my friend who you see in the video below loves flying his quadcopter in the night, motivated me to get into night flying, which meant I had to remove the FPV system which stands for first person view, which includes a camera and video transmitter, and put lights on my wing.  So this meant I had to check my parts bin to see what LED strip I had available to hook to an Arduino Nano. I had two led strips available a Neopixel strip and apa102 strip. I went with the apa102 just because it weighed less because it dint have a plastic waterproof wrap around it, and it had a 3M sticky back.

 

 


Here is the picture of the LED strip hooked up with the Arduino Nano


- apa102 led strip Data  connected to Arduino pin# 11
- apa102 clk  connected to Arduino pin# 12

- battery JST connected to  Vin , the battery is a Turnigy 2S lipo - 8.4v max (2 cell lipo)


And here is a very simple Arduino sketch that I used for the setup-

 

//Simple sketch for LED flying wing
#include <APA102.h>

// Define which pins to use.
const uint8_t dataPin = 11;
const uint8_t clockPin = 12;

// Create an object for writing to the LED strip.
APA102<dataPin, clockPin> ledStrip;

// Set the number of LEDs to control.
const uint16_t ledCount = 10;
// Create a buffer for holding the colors (3 bytes per color).
rgb_color colors[ledCount];
// Set the brightness to use (the maximum is 31).
const uint8_t brightness = 20;

void setup()
{
}

void loop()
{

colors[0] = rgb_color(255, 0, 0);//red
colors[1] = rgb_color(255, 0, 0);
colors[2] = rgb_color(255, 255, 255);//white
colors[3] = rgb_color(255, 255, 255);
colors[4] = rgb_color(0, 255, 0);//blue
colors[5] = rgb_color(0, 255, 0);
colors[6] = rgb_color(0, 255, 0);
colors[7] = rgb_color(0, 0, 255);//green
colors[8] = rgb_color(0, 0, 255);
colors[9] = rgb_color(0, 0, 255);

ledStrip.write(colors, ledCount, brightness);

delay(500);
colors[0] = rgb_color(0, 0, 0);//red led off
colors[1] = rgb_color(0, 0, 0);
//colors[6] = rgb_color(0, 0, 0);
//colors[9] = rgb_color(0, 0, 0);
ledStrip.write(colors, ledCount, brightness);
  delay(500);
}

Now for the most important part is to stick the LEDs on the flying wing without impacting the center of gravity of the wing (CG), I used some hot glue and tape.



And here are a some lesson learnt on adding LEDS to things that fly at night, and most of these suggestion are from my friend, who has been night flying for more than 5 years..


- Check the weight of LEDs - lighter the better- Positioning the LEDs equally on both side of the wing, so that the center of gravity. but for quadcopter this really does not make a big difference with modern flight controller(FCs) and electronic speed controllers (ESCs).
- To many blinking LEDs do not help, I found this out the hard way, after a couple of crashes. So, if you see my wing I now have only one blinking red light at the back, when initially as you see in the video above I had LEDS blinking on both the wing side
- If you are using foam board, use a couple of LEDs on the reverse, so that they diffuse in the foam, this gives a larger surface area for light diffusion, and the craft is more visible when it gets dark.
- Using an Arduino helps, as you can change the LED colors easily, or if you want to control LEDs using your phone in the field you can us an ESP32/ESP8266 based board.

If you any suggestion for night flying, leave them in the comment below..