Flying a DJI drone indoors: what you need to know

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about flying a DJI drone indoors. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I have the opportunity to fly my drones indoors to document a special event inside a high school. There does not seem to be any FAA prohibition since it does not involve any National Air Space. I have a Mavic 2 Zoom and DJI Phantom 4, and I am contemplating buying the Mavic Mini 2 to use if I do the shoot. I have never flown indoors.

DJI drone indoors

I definitely recommend you go for the Mavic Mini 2 since you’re doing an indoor flight. I don’t exactly ‘recommend’ flying indoors as there’s also the increased risk of magnetic interference, lost signals and more. However, the DJI Mavic Mini 2′ pre-flight procedures, flight modes, and app settings make it one of the best drones for indoor flying (and it’s the best drone you can get for the quality). Both the Mini 2 and its predecessor, the Mavic Mini, can hover precisely indoors and outdoors thanks to a downward vision sensor and GPS functionality.

Some basics about the DJI Mavic Mini 2:

  • Price: $449 (or $600 with the Fly More Combo)
  • Flight time: 31 minutes per battery (or about 20 minutes with the propeller guards)
  • Camera? Yes; 4K/30fps resolution, 2x and 4x zoom options, equipped with a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with up to 12 million effective pixels.
  • Width when unfolded (including the propellers): 11.3 inches wide
  • Weight: 249 grams

How do I legally fly a DJI drone indoors, and do I need to follow FAA rules?

FAA rules and regulations only apply to operations conducted outdoors in the National Airspace System (NAS). Thus, you don’t need to follow any FAA rules if your flight is indoors. You don’t need to be a Part 107-certified pilot, and you don’t need to register your drone. But, you still should anyway.

Tips for flying the Mavic Mini 2 DJI drone indoors

While the DJI Mini 2 should primarily be flown outdoors, it’s surprisingly well-suited for indoor flying.  And for your indoor flight, here are some of my best tips:

DJI drone indoors Mavic Mini prop guard

Use propeller guards

The Mini 2 comes with lightweight propeller guards to keep your walls and indoor objects safe. Use them! And it’s not just indoor objects and walls to keep safe. I’m assuming your event means a crowd of people in attendance. While prop guards do cut the battery life from 31 to 20 minutes, it’s worth the time sacrifice to mitigate a risky situation. Plus, that’s what spare batteries are for.

Scout as much as possible

You can never do too much research, and you can never be too prepared. Some things to scout out:

  • Where exactly are you flying? The gymnasium? The auditorium?
  • From there, what’s that area specifically like? Is there going to be any sort of magnetic interference?
  • How will the flight go? Where will you take off and land?
  • As far as pre and post flight, where can you set up your gear? Will you have a place to charge batteries?
  • Where will the people be, and can you avoid flying directly over them?
  • What is the lighting like? Will you be looking into a fluorescent gym light? Will there be dark, dramatic lighting, potentially blocking your view of the drone?

Do thorough research before all flights, but especially indoor ones.

Practice on location

Even the most experienced pilots don’t conduct their first flight live at the event in most cases. Especially since you won’t be able to use all the automatic flight modes given your indoor flight, you need to be comfortable in manual mode. Plus, doing a test run-through ahead of the event gives you a good sense of the best angles for the video you’ll be creating.

This will also enable you to get the right camera settings down in advance.

Notice the lighting’s impact on visual positioning

I mentioned finding out about the lighting as part of your scouting, and it’s especially important when it comes to your drone’s safety and automatic flight capabilities. Indoor flight means increased change that the GPS signal may be lost. In that case, your Mavic Mini will rely on its Vision Positioning Sensors. But those drone sensors work best when there is ample light in the room, so have a plan if there will be dark and dramatic lighting.

turn off RTH in DJI Fly App when flying indoor

Adjust the advanced safety settings to ‘hover’

In mot cases, we recommend “return to home” as the best safety setting for outdoor flights. But for indoor flights, hover is better. If there is any loss of signal, the drone will do just that: hover.

If you need to stop the propellers in an emergency, also be aware of the controller moves: move both control sticks towards the bottom inner or outer corners simultaneously to stop the propellers (though only do this in an absolute emergency as the propellers will stop completely and the drone will crash down).

Fly in manual modes

Don’t rely on any part of automatic flight for your indoor adventure. Only fly with manual takeoff, and continuously monitor the DJI app for your real-time drone status. Among the most important things to check for:

  • Battery life
  • Signal connection strength.

Alas, don’t rely on the automatic photo or video modes like ‘Dronie’ or ‘Rocket.’ While awesome, reserve those for outdoor flights.

Have fun, and make it fun!

And above all, have fun. For many people at the event, this might be their first time seeing a live drone flight, and especially their first time seeing a flying DJI drone indoors. If you’re having fun, relaxed and enjoying the drone, then they will too. Be the great representative for the drone community that you are!

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