March 18, 2015

How to Fly Drones Indoors


Autonomous flying vehicles
The prospect of flying a drone through the interior space within a structure is intriguing, especially if it can be equipped to map out the structure as it goes.  However, there are many challenges with this type of application.  Navigation being one, maintaining its positional accuracy is another.  With regards to the former, Flyability has come up with a unique solution.

Their drone is a flying autonomous vehicle–meaning it flies on its own without a human commanding it or programing in its navigation path. The vehicle is equipped with sensors that detect obstacles in its environment allowing it to adjust its flight path as it goes. It also is equipped with a safety cage surrounding the quad copter. This cage allows the vehicle to encounter an object and simply bounce off and redirect its trajectory.  Since the blades of the copter are within the cage it makes it safe to fly around people without fear of being cut by a blade.

Imagine sending this vehicle into a building for emergency situations where it is unsafe for a responder to enter such as in a fire, after an earthquake, or with regards to an intruder. The vehicle could navigate its way through the structure broadcasting its position and showing video of what it sees.

Probably more challenging is equipping the vehicle to map out the space as it goes. Positional accuracy can be tricky, but depending on the application a simple map of the space vs. a survey grade floor plan could still be extremely helpful in many situations. I don’t think we are too far off from seeing solutions such as this.

Russo2Plane or Chopper? The choice is yours
This next drone is the SkyProwler “Multi-Mission VTOL Transformer Drone.” A combination between a quad copter and an airplane. Combining the features of both offers many advantages. One being the greater range and speed of a plane.  Another is the ability to hover in one place or take-off and land vertically. The manufacturer, Krossblade, hopes one day to deploy a full-blown flying car – the SkyCruiser. As part of the development of that airborne dream machine, the team produced a miniature prototype, which has evolved into SkyProwler. With this transformo-drone you get two bangs for your buck: a winged aircraft dubbed “Blade” or a multicopter designated “Hornet”.

Imagine an application where a local building needs to be surveyed. The scope of work is to create a basic architectural site plan and building shell model. Instead of driving to the site and using traditional survey techniques the drone can be deployed to fly there quickly using the airplane mode. Upon arrival it could switch into multicopter mode to take photo imagery of site and building. The photo imagery could be used with Autodesk’s recap to convert the imagery into a point cloud for modeling.

Of course, this is a bit far-fetched right now considering the limitations of commercial flight restrictions in the US from the FAA as well as the limitations of Recap’s ability to convert this type of data into survey grade data. However, recent announcements by the FAA seem to indicate new regulations will soon allow commercial applications of this technology to expand. With regards to Recap, this could be a great solution for those who might benefit from data that can be used for preliminary design or visualization purposes.


Commercial UAV Expo, a new trade show and conference organized by SPAR 3D, will take place October 5-7, 2015 in Las Vegas. It focuses on the commercial UAV/UAS market in North America covering including Surveying & Mapping; Civil Engineering & Infrastructure;  Mining; Construction; Process, Power & Utilities; Precision Agriculture; and Law Enforcement, Security, Emergency Response.

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