A while ago, we flew a commercial advertising flight for a local fitness club near my house. It went really well and it got me thinking about what an untapped market there is for indoor drone photography and videography. Another customer recently asked if we could use drones indoors and it gave me the idea for this article.
You can definitely fly a DJI Air 2S indoors. The Air 2S is small and easy to maneuver, making it an excellent option for indoor photography and videography. However, flying indoors requires a unique set of safety protocols, drone settings, and drone accessories to ensure a successful mission.
We will review what you need to know in this article.
Let me say first that I love indoor flying. There are no weather issues like rain or wind, plus I don’t have to stand outside in the hot sun or freeze my butt off in the cold. In addition, there are absolutely no airspace restrictions because the FAA does not have jurisdiction over indoor flights.
This is a welcome relief if you fly in the northern Virginia or Washington, DC area. Thanks to its advanced flight control system, small size, and maneuverability, the Air 2S is able to safely fly indoors. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when flying any drone indoors.
Drones were not originally envisioned to fly indoors. The GPS signals that drones rely on are unreliable indoors, which makes it difficult to maintain control. Flying in what’s called ATTI mode (or non-GPS mode) is a skill you will need to learn. Next, you will probably be flying over people, this requires additional care. Lastly, it’s likely that the space will be somewhat confined. So you need to take it slow and use the right drone settings. With these tips in mind, you can safely and confidently fly the Air 2S indoors.
One note, in this article we assume your flight is for commercial purposes. While the focus of this article is commercial drone flights, many of the recommendations also apply to recreational flights.
Why Fly Air 2S Drone Indoors?
Opportunities For Indoor Flights
Drones are able to capture images and videos from unique perspectives that are simply not possible with traditional methods. When most people think of drones they think of the outdoors, however, drones have a number of indoor applications.
Indoor drone flights can be a great opportunity for your business. Large stores like Costco or Home Depot have warehouse structures that support drone operations. Drones can show the interior scale and the breadth of products.
Aerial videos provide unique perspectives on the architecture of shopping malls or large corporate headquarters. We’ve seen significant interest in particular from commercial shopping centers. Also, indoor flights are not regulated by the FAA.
Drones can also also be used for industrial warehouses and fitness centers. Aerial photography and videography can provide an excellent sense of the range of capabilities and equipment placement. The goal in these cases is to attract new customers or clients. See our article “Real Estate Marketing with Drone Photography“
With aerial photography, marketing products can be generated much faster and cheaper than with traditional photography.
Products For Indoor Drone Flights
The drone’s unique ability to capture aerial footage gives them a distinct advantage over traditional cameras. For these applications drones typically generate commercial advertisements, so the main product will be produced videos. Although you may also want photos to complement the primary video product.
The newest and most exciting product for indoor aerial photography is the 360° interactive virtual tour. Aerial 360-degree virtual tours are created by taking multiple photos around specific locations. The resulting footage is then stitched together to create a seamless, immersive experience. These 360-degree aerial virtual tours will become a new way to explore the world, and they can only be achieved with drones.
Recommended Drones For Indoor Flights
Based on our experience with indoor flights, there are three primary characteristics to prioritize in your drone: size, sound, and maneuverability. You will want to use a drone that is as small as possible but still has a large sensor to capture high-quality video. You want the drone to be as quiet as possible. Lastly, you want the drone to be maneuverable enough for confined spaces.
FAA Regulations For Indoor Drone Flights
The FAA has jurisdiction over all commercial drone operations within US air space via the Part 107 rules and regulations. They have established a rigorous set of requirements for commercial drone pilot certification and behavior.
FAA drone regulations do not apply to indoor flights. Indoor spaces are not defined as part of the US national air space, so none of the FAA rules and regulations apply. Indoor space is defined as any area enclosed by a roof. However, your drone’s geo-fencing may restrict your flight, in which case you’ll need to request special authorization from your drone vendor.
So you can essentially do whatever you want with your drone if you’re indoors. This creates several potential problems because flying a drone indoors is inherently more dangerous than flying outdoors. The space is more confined, there are more obstacles, and you will generally be flying over people.
The FAA has strict regulations for outdoor flights over people, it’s peculiar that these rules do not apply to indoor spaces where you’re much more likely to encounter this issue.
Precautions For Air 2S Indoor Drone Flights
These are the precautions we use for all indoor flights. They are not specific to the DJI Air 2S, they are general recommendations that apply to any indoor flight with any drone.
Before the Flight
Preparation is key to having a safe successful indoor flight. Here is a list of preflight procedures we use for our jobs.
Practice– Since you will not have GPS, become comfortable flying your drone and ATTI mode. This is important because, without GPS, the drone will tend to drift. It is a very different experience from flying with GPS.
Coordinate with management– Meet with building management to let them know of the impending drone flight. Ask for any special considerations they would like you to take. Coordinate to identify times of local pedestrian traffic. If it makes sense, work with management to clear the area of pedestrian traffic before the flight.
Site Survey – Walk the flight area to identify any obstructions or obstacles that might cause a problem. Carefully map out the route you will fly and identify emergency landing spots.
Clearly Define Takeoff Area – Create a landing and takeoff area with pylons and a landing pad. Provide ample space around the takeoff area to ensure no pedestrians will interfere.
Check Drone Settings – Do a final check of all your drone settings before taking off. See the next section for detailed Air 2S settings to use for indoor flights.
Identify Yourself – Whenever we fly a mission we always wear a safety vest (with reflective strips) and display our FAA pilot’s license. This way people know who is in charge of the drone in case there’s an emergency.
During The Flight
During the flight is when you’re most likely to have problems, so follow these rules to maximize your odds of a successful mission.
Manual Takeoff– Always use manual takeoff and land, as opposed to automated takeoff. You need to control the initial height of the drone, and you need the ability to quickly abort if necessary.
Go slow – Even though the Air 2S will be in Cine mode, this is faster than the traditional tripod mode in most other drones.
Avoid Fans and Ceilings – Stay away from large fans or events, and always stay at least 3 feet away from the ceiling. Fans and vents can create updrafts or downdrafts which cause your drone to veer suddenly. If you get too close to the ceiling, the propellers can create an updraft that causes the throne to rise suddenly toward the ceiling.
Focus – If there are people around it’s likely that someone may want to talk to you about the drone. It’s important to focus and avoid distractions. Stay close to the drone and walk behind it as you fly. Watch where you’re walking, and beware of obstacles that could cause you to trip and fall
After The Flight
Once the mission is complete and you’ve landed your drone, immediately pack all materials in your case. Notify management that the mission is complete and report any incidents or problems that may have occurred.
Because this is not controlled airspace you do require to report incidents to the FAA, however, it’s good practice to report any incidents and that is our recommendation.
Drone settings For Air 2S Indoor Flights
These are the drone settings we use for all indoor flights with our Air 2S.
Hover In Place
The DJI fly control software has two emergency responses in the event that you lose remote connection with your drone. You can set the drone to either hover in place or automatically return to the takeoff location (Return To Home). In the event of an emergency, you absolutely want the drone to hover in place
Turn Off Collision Sensors
We recommend that you turn off the anti-collision sensors on the drone. These are the sensors that automatically stop the drone if it gets too close to the object. It’s quite possible that you will want to fly very close to objects, this is why you have to go slow.
Set the drone flight mode to CINE mode, this is analogous to tripod modes in other drones. The problem is that CINE mode on the Air 2S is much more sensitive than the traditional tripod mode so you still need to have a light touch on your sticks.
Manual Take Off
Always take off and land manually so that you can maintain complete control of the drone at all times.
Air 2S Accessories for Indoor Drone Flights
There are several accessories that we recommend for flying indoors, these will help ensure a safe and productive flight.
Propeller Guards – We absolutely recommend you use propeller guards, it’s very likely when flying indoors you will bump into a wall or a door inadvertently. Propeller guards help to keep a minor collision from becoming a disaster.
Landing Pads – We typically don’t use landing pads outdoors because they tend to fly away, however when flying indoors they are invaluable. They allow you to define your takeoff and landing zone and ensure that no pedestrians will encroach on the area.
Pylons – Place pylons roughly 3 to 4 feet around our landing pad to ensure that no one gets close to the landing and takeoff area. They are very helpful in clearly defining an area where pedestrians should not enter.
Safety Vest – This is the same safety vest we use on construction sites, it definitely identifies you as someone who’s doing something important. The vest also has pockets where you can display your pilot’s license. It’s important for people around to know who is in control of the drone.
Insurance – While not technically an accessory however drone insurance is critically important when flying indoors. If the drone crashes or you lose control chances are you hit someone, so we always recommend a minimum $1 million liability insurance policy. We use Skywatch insurance for our missions. It’s a cost-effective option when starting a drone company.
We believe there is a lot of business opportunity for indoor drone flights. There are many applications, and there are no restrictions or regulations when flying your drone. This offers is a lot of freedom to fly your drone, however, it also places a lot of responsibility on the pilot to fly safely and responsibly. For more details on starting your business see our article “First 9 Steps To Start A Drone Business“
Lightwave Aerial is a professional drone service company based in Northern Virginia. Our pilots are all FAA Part-107 certified. We offer a full range of aerial photo/video production services, aerial mapping, and aerial inspection.
At Lightwave Aerial, we are dedicated to providing professional drone services that help our clients achieve their goals. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you with your next construction project!