Flying an AR Drone indoors is more challenging than flying outdoors. In this article I am going to give you some pointers to help make your indoor flights more enjoyable. Be sure to read the summary at the end – you may not want to even attempt indoor flight with this machine!
1. Soft materials will absorb the ultrasonic pulses from the altitude sensor
The two discs on the bottom of the drone are the ultrasonic sensors. Using these sensors the AR Drone attempts to keep its altitude steady. Different materials like carpeting, sofas, chairs, coffee tables, etc will all reflect or absorb these ultrasonic noises differently. You may be flying along just fine and then go over a table and all of a sudden the altitude changes radically. Generally you should try to fly about halfway between the ceiling and the floor just in case you get a quick altitude change up or down.
2. The AR Drone needs to see contrast underneath
The bottom camera is looking directly down in order to try to maintain its XY position. In order for it to do this well, there needs to be some contrast on the floor (hence the high contract design of the box).. You can lay down strips of carpet tape or masking tape to help the drone to position itself if you are having a lot of drifting issues.
3. The AR Drone will try to suck itself to the ceiling
The props on the AR Drone are sucking in air and pushing it down at up to 19.5mph. This is a lot of suction power on the top of the drone. You always want to stay at least three feet from the ceiling or you risk the drone trying to suckerfish itself to the ceiling. If this should happen to you, don’t worry it will come off immediately as the drone will do an emergency shutdown and plummet to the ground, hopefully landing on something soft and not an expensive vase.
4. Fly with the indoor hull indoors
While those spinning rotor blades are very cool to see out in the open, it is just good safety practice to use the indoor hull when indoors. This will not only protect your drone, but animals, children, and especially wives, do not like to be hit by spinning rotor blades. Flying in close quarters also means the inevitable bump against something and you don’t want to have to replace a set of rotor blades prematurely.
5. Turn down your controls
Its usually a pretty good idea to dial down your controls so that you limit your speed and altitude climbing to a minimum. The AR Drone generally responds pretty good and the more twitchy the controls are set, the more likely you are to hit something. This is why I use AR Drone Flight for Android. AR Drone Flight allows me to create multiple profiles so I can quickly switch between Indoor and Outdoor settings.
In a general sense, the AR Drone or any mid-size quadcopter is too large for regular “room flying”. You simply don’t have enough room to let the machine perform! If you do a lot of indoor flying, consider a micro-sized drone like the Hubsan X4 or the obstacle avoiding Walker QR.