Flying your aerial drone inside a covered structure requires safety equipment, special settings, and a high degree of skill. This subject has been explored by a number of other bloggers, so we’ll summarize their recommendations and present a few of our own.
The FAA Does Not Have Jurisdiction over Indoor Flying
Part 107 doesn’t mention flying indoors because these areas are not considered navigable air space. However, there are a number of applications for indoor flying, including real estate photography, conventions, games, and drone competitions. Such applications require special considerations by the pilot. We’ll cover several in this article.
When flying indoors, there’s significant risk that your drone will get damaged, harm people, and/or damage property. Therefore, check with your insurance company to see if indoor flight injuries and damages are covered.
Many drone pilots use Verify, now Thimble, a popular pay by the hour insurance company, which specifically excludes coverage for indoor flying. Our own insurance company, Global Aerospace, excludes coverage for competitions, but otherwise appears to cover indoor operations (per my agent). This gets confusing, since Thimble contracts with Global Aerospace. So, read your policy carefully to ensure you’re covered for flying indoors.
Tips for Flying Indoors
- Always use propeller guards to reduce injury and damage.
- Turn off GPS positioning. Interference or loss of signal can lead to unintended drone movements. For certain DJI drones, this means turning off P mode, and using ATTI mode instead.
- Related to 2, don’t use automated flight settings such as tracking or waypoints.
- Turn off obstacle avoidance. Although vision systems are excellent for outdoor flying, they can lead to stubborn flight control indoors and possible human error through over-reaction.
- Use beginner mode, if your flight controller supports it. Flight control stick sensitivities are decreased.
- Avoid ceilings, walls, and other flat surfaces. Prop wash causes unpredictable flight behavior.
- Turn off automatic Return to Home. If possible, set loss of signal action to hover in place.
For additional information, please refer to:
Alternatives to Flying Indoors
Indoor photography can often be done just as effectively with a camera mounted onto a pole, rather than using an aerial drone. For example, mount your camera onto a glide stabilizer and walk your camera through the desired area. (We use our Samsung S20+ cell phone on a DJI Osmo for these shots.) Reduce camera shake with your video processor’s image stabilization filter.
This same technique can be used outdoors as well. A client once asked us to survey an asphalt road, suggesting that we fly just below the tree canopy. They were happy to learn of a much simpler method to mount a camera in front of and above their truck to capture their footage.
However, the cell phone/Osmo solution doesn’t work in high winds. For example, I once tried this technique from the open cockpit of a biplane but the 80 mph wind overpowered the Osmo. That approach was an epic failure, but salvaged by holding the cell phone and stabilizing the video in post processing.
When there’s no other solution than flying indoors, then we advise extreme caution, following these tips, and checking your insurance coverage.