Ask Drone Girl: which drones can fly indoors AND do heavy lifting?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drones that can both fly in doors and carry a relatively heavy payload. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

We are looking drones that can carry 5 kilograms of weight for indoor applications where the max flying height of 5 meters. What would you recommend?

It turns out, you don’t need a complicated, custom solution. DJI actually makes a product you may be able to use — the DJI Matrice 100.

I chatted with Will Stavanja, the founder of Wilstair — a North Carolina-based company that provides commercial aerial robotics systems integration. . His past life is pretty interesting — with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanial Aerospace Engineering, he co-led an Urban High Rise Rescue educational project for Boeing to develop a drone concept model that could be used to rescue people from burning high-rise buildings.  He said he uses a DJI M100 or custom 525mm + 8 configuration for indoor operations that require large drones.

The DJI M100 costs at $3,299 and is tailored at commercial applications and for developers. The maximum takeoff weight of the M100 is about 4kg, though Stavanja says it can be 5 to 6 kg for a custom model with 600-700kv motors and slightly smaller props. With no payload, you’re looking at 40 minutes of flight time with the M100, though payload impacts that (a 1 kg payload already drops you down to just 16 minutes of hovering time).

“Obviously bigger heavy lift units can be built, but we have seen that anything larger than an M100 size unit can be trouble for indoor ops – depending on use case of course,” Stavanja added.

I’ll also throw in there that it sounds like you’re doing a commercial operation, which would typically require a Part 107 license. However, since you’re operating indoors, the FAA has no jurisdiction over your airspace (or lack thereof). You don’t need any type of license to fly drones indoors, but I would recommend taking your Part 107 test anyway, should you choose to take your business outdoors too!

One Comment

  • To be honest, it’s quite easy to fly most drones, except massive military drones, indoors whether you have a position vision system/sonar or whatever or not. Usually there is no wind so it’s not going to get blown off course, so as long as you keep your eyes open you aren’t going to hit anything.
    Having said that, the new obstacle avoidance systems add an extra layer of safety and security/confidence that is very useful. The only thing missing in this regard with current models, like the phantom 4 Pro, is upward facing obstacle detection, which would be very useful indoors when you want to get up near the roof, as well as flying under bridges for inspections or just because you want to.

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