Flying drones indoors presents a whole new set of problems for pilots. With interference from Wi-Fi, FM Radio, Bluetooth speakers and other sources, flying your drone indoors will challenge you in a way that flying outside doesn’t. However, understanding how to safely navigate these obstacles can open up lucrative business opportunities for any drone pilot. Shooting aerial photos and videos of interior spaces can be useful for realtors, factories and other types of businesses. Because advertising, mapping and inspections often require you to fly inside, you’ll want to know how to deal with the various obstacles and interferences that flying indoors can present.
Here are a few tips for those drone pilots that are faced with the challenge of operating within an interior space:
While private indoor environments are not navigable airspace and thus not governed by the FAA, flying drones inside is risky. You can easily damage something or someone. In order to avoid breaking something expensive or giving someone a haircut, you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re doing. Don’t take a commercial job flying indoors until you have at least 500 flight hours under your belt.
One of the biggest problems you’ll encounter when operating inside is magnetic interference. It can cause massive issues for your drone and result in flyaways and other accidents.
For this reason, you’ll want to know the proper settings to optimize your drone’s performance when flying inside. This will include turning off the sensors, obstacle avoidance and visual positioning. It will also include foregoing IMU and compass calibration. Essentially, you’ll want to turn off anything that diminishes your control or automates the drone’s movement. Flying indoors requires precision and you’ll want to make sure you have as much control over your drone as possible.
Most importantly, you’ll want to turn off GPS mode (or P-Mode, for Phantom pilots). Flying in GPS mode will almost definitely result in a flyaway. You don’t want to risk that.
“Indoors” can mean a lot of different things. Depending on the situation, you may find yourself flying through a living room, a factory or a covered arena. Each of these interiors is very different and will present a different set of problems.
While flying through a home interior, for example, you’ll have to worry about doorways, walls and furniture (not to mention lamps and other breakables!). When flying through a factory, however, you’ll have to worry more about the magnetic interference given off by all of the steel housed within it.
You should have experience flying in a certain environment before you try to make money flying there. If you’re looking to shoot interiors for real estate, you should practice in your own home first. While it can be tough to fly in factories unless you’ve been hired to, practicing around bridges or jungle gyms (when no one is around, obviously), will allow you to get a feel for the way your drone flies around steel.
The fact of the matter is that not all drones are created equal. When it comes to flying indoors, some drones are just built for it. Other drones just aren’t capable of navigating through interior spaces.
The Inspire 1, for example, has a propwash that isn’t suitable for flying over obstacles in a house. When flying over tables, the Inspire will start to lose track of it’s elevation and becomes erratic without any warning.
The Phantom series, on the other hand, is the absolute best drone for flying indoors. It is versatile enough to handle most interior flying environments. The Phantom’s Attitude Mode is a strong tool for flying without GPS turned on.
One of the biggest mistakes drone pilots making when flying inside is overcorrecting. Making drastic moves in an attempt to undermine mistakes only leads to more accidents. While you might want to send the drone backwards to avoid hitting something, there will probably be something else behind it that you can hit.
Even if you’re flying a Phantom 4 Pro in Attitude Mode, you’ll have to learn to get a handle on the drone’s momentum. Attitude Mode doesn’t allow for air braking, so the drone won’t just stop when you want it to. Whereas this would be less of a problem outdoors, it can lead to accidents indoors. You’ll have to learn to reverse the pitch and increase the throttle when you want to bring the drone to a stop.
You’ll want to keep your shots to a minimum and simplify your movements when shooting inside. Whether you're in a factory or a home, you’ll have to be operating multiple axises at once. Simplified movements will better help you to control the drone.
The elevation, pitch, yaw and roll can be easily controlled in a few ways. You can either shoot in short, straight lines or fly in a half-moon shape. Both methods provide ways for you to minimize the yaw and avoid spinning out. Keeping your shots simple will result in the best possible footage.
While crispy, interior drone footage can look amazing, you may have to find alternatives in some cases. Sometimes the situation is going to call for creative thinking. If, for example, there is a doorway that's too narrow to fly through or magnetic interference is preventing you from operating safely, you can consider some other options.
The Osmo is a great tool for those times when flying inside just isn't going to happen. It can be mounted and controlled remotely or attached to a skateboard and rolled through the area. It is important to consider all of the options before deciding that flying through someone's kitchen is the thing you need to do. While professionally-trained drone pilots will have no problem gliding through the doorway of a home, some of us should take the safer route to getting interior shots.
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