Tricopter lighting? (and a few of my open source LED controllers)


New member
Hello FT forums, first post here so a brief intro first...

I'm Dan, I'm an electrical engineer by trade and I run an LED lighting business (flashlights and similar) called Killer Lumens. I enjoy all aspects of LED lighting and ALL of my RC models are COVERED in lights.
I've recently fell in love with tricopters; how they fly, how they look, their extra mechanical heartaches over quads... I have a half dozen quads from micro to 450 and they're simple to light up in a way that makes maintaining orientation at night easy, green on front, red on the tail and 2 other colors at the tip of each arm, the thing is tri's arnt nearly as easy to light up in a way that makes orientation fool-proof in the dark.

I was wondering if anyone wanted to share pictured of their tricopter's lighting setup. I'm not only after cool looking (who isn't right) but mainly I am searching for a lighting scheme that makes keeping orientation easier, especially at long distances and in the complete darkness. In the last month I've probably went threw 10 different lighting setup's on my 270 tri (I also have a 570 Y but because of issues I have with the small one getting turned around I havent yet tried it at night at all, to much money to risk till I find a fool-proof method).

What I have right now I'm actually pretty happy with, I just got it figured out 2 days ago and thus only have about 30 minutes of night flight testing with it but it has definitely seemed to help. Probably another few nights and I'll be ready to dress the big girl up in LED strips and give her a try!

Right now I'm using 2 green strips on the front arm (T style) and a double stack red strip on the rear landing ball, Finally I have a pair of red & yellow LED's at the very tail, this REALLY helps with orientation when you're pointed towards either side. The next step is to make the red and yellow LED's flash to better grab your attention (I've used flashing LED's on the tails of planes before and that has always really helped me).

Please take a look at mine and more importantly post up pictures of your lit up tri-copters!

Final thought, open hardware is one of my very favorite hobbies, I've not had the time I hoped for this summer with the kids getting older and wanting to be involved in more summer sports / activities but I have got around to two of the projects I had planned and I have several more OSHW lighting projects in the works. Please take a moment to check them out on my OSHPark profile. The smaller one is a simple analog LED flip-flop and costs about $3 to build (counting the boards) using stuff out of your junk bin, the second one with the ATtiny13A MCU is about $5 worth of parts (and $3 for a set of boards) but it requires code which I've not yet released openly (that WILL happen ASAP tho). I may have to charge a few bucks for it once it's ready (but you can order the boards directly from OSHPark and run your own simple code if you want). Again I'm still in the process of finishing the MCU based one and will make a dedicated thread once it's finalized! It's designed to give the end-user several options without any code wprk or re-programming needed, just setting the jumpers he can choose between one of two speeds, a simple on/off flash vs a fade and whether he needs 3-5v output for a small LED direct drive or a switched output (threw the N-FET) for controlling 12V LED strips or other HB LED's. And finally, here's the RCGroup thread on the analog flip-flop, the boards literally cost under $0.75/ea and if you're anything like me you'll have all the needed components in your junk drawer!

Uploading some new pic's of my tricopter now


New member
Here's the pic's of my baby-T copter lighting. Note the two 3mm blue LED's on top are the arm status indicators and the red / white 5mm on the bottom is the alarm LED's (along with a buzzer)

And a couple HORRIBLE night flying shots in my side yard

Note the green street sigh reflecting VERY bright

Really bad one but I love the light showing on the ground


Hostage Taker of Quads
Staff member
Hey CK, Welcome to the forum.

Also an EE, Also a Fan of night flying . . . Not a fan of Tri's but that's just my opinion ;)

One thing I've found that works EXCEPTIONALLY well as a strategy for multirotors is careful use of occluded lighting. The idea is from any one angle there is *AT LEAST* one color that cannot be seen, and preferably less of the other colors than the closest direction, all using the booms as a shade.

In a Quad, that's simple -- each side gets a color. Looking at a particular side I would see the color of the nearest two booms , an alternating pair of colors off the nearest side of the farthest booms and the shared color on the farthest side of the farthest booms would be invisible. learn the pattern and you'll never loose orientation.

On a Tri you can pull the same trick, but you need to be a touch more careful. on your front of the front booms you get color A, on the back side of the front booms you get color B, and the left/right sides of the rear boom get colors C and D (respectively). from the front, you will see a full length of A, and depending on your left/right ness you'll see C or D, but you won't see B. For a Y copter, from the side, you'll see the nearest B, the farthest A, and only either C or D (depending on which Side). For a T copter, you'll stop seeing A and only see B, then only C or D depending on the side. From the rear C and D will swap as you transition around.

With that pattern you should have good attitude orientation with only 6 strips with 4 colors. easy peasy :)


New member
Hey guys, this thread just made it on oshpark's blog!

If anyone has any other tricopter lighting tips / pictures please contribute!


New member
i use the same colors and sides as airplanes and ships, red on the left or port side, green on the right or starboard side and white on the rear. this way you always see 2 colors and the colors you see tell you what side of the multirotor you are looking at. i will add pictures in a little while.
front.jpg left.jpg right.jpg
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