Flying drones during a solar eclipse: What you need to know

As excitement builds for the upcoming solar eclipse, drone enthusiasts may be eager to capture this rare celestial event from unique perspectives. 

However, flying drones during a solar eclipse requires careful planning, adherence to safety guidelines, and consideration of potential challenges. 

Here's what drone users need to know to safely and effectively film the sun during a solar eclipse:

Be mindful of your surroundings

When it comes to flying drones, safety should always be the top priority, especially during special events like a solar eclipse. It's not just about personal safety but also about respecting the law and the safety of others. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure compliance with local regulations and airspace restrictions and to avoid flying near crowds or congested areas.

It's important to note that there are no explicit rules by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on banning drones during the solar eclipse. However, depending on the location you plan to film, there may be specific guidelines when it comes to operating a drone. It's always best to stay informed and follow any local regulations or advisories. 

RELATED: FAA issues travel warning ahead of April's total solar eclipse

In light of this celestial event, the FAA has issued a travel advisory, emphasizing the anticipated surge in drone activity in the airspace along the eclipse's path. Travelers are cautioned to expect a significant increase in drone presence, which may lead to heightened air traffic congestion. 

"Travelers flying along the eclipse path may encounter limited parking and potential delays at airports due to the high volume of aircraft and drones attempting to witness the total solar eclipse," the agency said.

Can you point your camera at the sun? 

You’ll want to avoid pointing the drone camera directly at the sun without adequate protection, as this can damage the camera sensor or lens.

According to The Drone Girl, a trusted online resource for drone photography enthusiasts, investing in a premium solar filter tailored to your camera lens is essential. These filters effectively diminish the sun's brightness, safeguarding your camera sensor from potential damage.

Monitor your GPS signal

Local drone enthusiasts should take note that GPS signal reception could experience disruptions during the upcoming solar eclipse. 

These disruptions may result in navigation challenges or even loss of control over your drone. To ensure your flight operations' safety, it is advised to monitor your drone's GPS signal closely.

Another important aspect to remember is to ensure that your drone batteries are fully charged before embarking on your eclipse filming adventure. It's crucial to have enough battery life to cover the entire eclipse duration without any interruptions in filming. Consider bringing along extra batteries as a precautionary measure to guarantee uninterrupted capture of this extraordinary celestial event.

Total solar eclipse path

The April 2024 solar eclipse will be visible, at least in part, to nearly everyone in the U.S. But the path of totality – where the moon will completely block the sun – is a 115-mile-wide region that stretches from southern Texas up through Ohio, then over to northern Maine.

Large cities in the path of totality include:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Carbondale, Illinois
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Buffalo, New York
  • Plattsburgh, New York
  • Presque Isle, Maine

The farther you are from that path, less and less of the sun will appear to be blocked.

What time is the solar eclipse?

Southern Texas will see the peak of totality first, around 1:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Then Dallas at 1:42 p.m., with the time getting later and later as the moon’s shadow moves north. Indianapolis will see the peak around 3:05 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time; Cleveland at 3:15 p.m., and northern Maine around 3:30 p.m.

However, it will take several hours for the moon to move across the sun, so the actual eclipse event will start just over an hour before the peak of totality, with more and more of the sun slowly being blocked.

How long is the solar eclipse?

Again, that depends on where you are. Those closest to the center of the path will see total darkness for about four minutes at the peak of totality.

But because the moon moves slowly across the sun’s path, the entire eclipse event – from when the moon first clips the sun until the time it clears – will last from 90 minutes to over two hours for those in the path of totality.

Where do I look for the solar eclipse?

The easiest way to know may be to step outside in the days leading up to the eclipse and see where the sun is during the afternoon.

MORE: How to get the best view of the solar eclipse

Early afternoon on April 8, the sun will be pretty high in the sky. As always, though, the further north you are, the lower in the sky the sun will appear.

For example, in Austin, the sun will be at 67 degrees up from the horizon at the peak of totality. Remember, 90 degrees is straight up, so 67 degrees is just over two-thirds up into the sky from the horizon.

In Cleveland, meanwhile, the sun will be slightly lower, at only 49 degrees – just over halfway up in the sky.

When is the next total solar eclipse?

After 2024, NASA says, the next total solar eclipse visible from any point in the contiguous United States will occur in 2044. Totality will only be visible from North Dakota and Montana.

The next total solar eclipse that will travel across the lower 48 states from coast to coast is in 2045. ​