Looking for the best indoor drone? This guide will tell you what to look out for, show you are pick of the best models, and guide you to the best price deals…
Wherever you’re doing it, and for whatever reason, flying drones is a lot of fun. Nowhere is that more pure and true than indoors. You get all the fun of close quarters' flying, the relative safety of compact quads, and complete freedom from any aviation regulations (until you fly out the window).
Theoretically, of course, any drone can be flown indoors, so long as it’s kept away from the fixtures and fittings, but some are definitely better suited to it than others – indoor drones are smaller and, better still, can also be a lot more wallet-friendly.
Most camera drones, built for outdoor use, feature GPS, which becomes useless indoors. They also have cameras designed for aerial photography rather than First Person View (FPV) piloting, and excessively powerful radio control systems. The best drones for outdoor photography might also be a bit big and heavy for the average home.
Far better to use a craft suited to indoor use. If they’re small and light, making the indoor world seems bigger by comparison. They generally feature propeller guards to avoid any damage to the drone, furniture, people or pets nearby, and ideally a camera with a wide field of view.
Because there is such an overlap with the fast-moving toy world, there are a lot of choices; some of the newer products have the advantage of mass-production prices, while some of the established drones offer more in terms of features and quality.
Here's our selection of the best indoor drones you can currently buy, to suit all tastes and budgets.
The best indoor drones for 2020
The A20 fits in the hand with room to spare, and in a crowded marketplace it stands out on build quality (not least the chunky propeller guards) and simplicity of both use and design. Many mini drones come with confusing controllers with an array of push-buttons for calibration, but the Potensic is elegant. There are two thumbstick controls and shoulder buttons to operate the camera and cycle thorough the three speed modes.
Beginners will appreciate the altitude hold (meaning you don’t need to continuously adjust the throttle to hover) and headless mode (meaning you don’t need to worry about the drone’s orientation). There is also automatic landing, and a red LED at the rear which flashes when the battery is about to run out so you can make sure you’re hovering in a good landing spot.
This drone, the A20W, is part of an organized line from Porensic; if you want a bit more size, there is an A30W, and if you feel you can forgo the WiFi FPV camera – which you view via your phone – then look for the models without W at the end; they look the same but place an ordinary LED where the camera would be.
Eschewing the traditional remote controller with sticks approach, this drone wants to get up close and personal, responding to hand gestures from inside a complete protective cage. This lack of complication and total finger protection make it ideal novel fun for children of all ages.
To get in the air, you simply toss the drone cage into the air and the motors will kick in. It’ll slowly but continuously rotate and it has two IR sensors on opposite sides which it uses to detect and avoid your palm – so essentially you can “push” it without touching it. It maintains altitude, but also has an IR sensor on the bottom so you can “push” it up too. Finally the motion sensor will shut it straight off it hits something, with the cage absorbing the blow. Simple but effective. If you get your hands near the sensors on both sides (which isn’t as easy as it sounds) then it’ll even attempt a flip.
The only physical interaction you’ll need is via the on/off switch at the bottom and the small charging port (which connects to a standard USB socket). The cage has a good balance of flex and rigidity, the packaging and manual is good, and – while Scoot offer other versions – this with UFO-like LEDs – is definitely the favorite. There is no camera, and you can’t practice your controls, but it’s a lot of fun.
• See also Best drones for kids
While some of the drones on this list are toy-grade, this is in every respect a consumer-grade product, with quality packaging, safe-looking batteries, and a full set of features. It is a little more expensive than some, but you get what you pay for – not least the Intel and DJI tech on board. That includes a downward-facing sensors which make for stunningly stable hovering and auto landing, and the ability to react to a wall bounce.
At first you’ll have fun flying it around the house like any other drone, sneaking round doors using the FPV video on your phone screen (you can also use an optional game controller). There are button-press flips and stunts to impress friends and family, but really that’s just the start.
You can capture still photos at 5 megapixels and video via the app (from the same camera that you see through as you fly); the video is digitally stabilized and looks much better than equivalents in this price bracket. Thanks to visual block-based programming tool Scratch, you can experiment with programmed flight. Since Scratch is often used in schools as a way of introducing programming, it’s easy to learn, and rewarding.
The Parrot Mambo is the granddaddy of indoor drones, and has been through several iterations thanks to its flexible design. Sadly Parrot only list one version for sale now, but it’s a good one: The Mambo FPV. Nonetheless it’s well worth looking out for other editions, like the “Fly Kits” set which included a tiny canon, a grabber claw, or note grip which were ideal for conducting covert missions across an open-plan office!
All this flexibility comes from the Lego-like Smart Block attachments at the top; in the FPV edition this is used to clip on a camera which feeds video to your phone, which you clip into the pleasingly comfortable goggles. You can control the drone via your phone and Parrot’s free app, but in this edition the actual input comes via a Bluetooth remote since the phone may well be clipped in your CockpitGoggles.
The drone also makes use of an ultrasound sensor, camera and barometer for stable hover, so if you let go of the controls it will just hover (Parrot, after all, know more than a thing or two about drones having essentially created the trend over a decade ago). On the outside that design experience is also reflected in slide-in-and-out batteries and the cool LED “eyes” that give the drone just enough character!
Drones have been embraced as professional tools and fun toys, but there is another dimension – a dedicated hobbyist community (with their own racing and freestyle competitions). At the cutting edge this side of the hobby relies on separate goggles, radio controllers, specialist batteries & chargers, and ultra-low-latency analogue video signals. Many enthusiasts build their own drones, but this “Ready to Fly” kit gets you in the air faster.
The tiny drones – the Whoop category, as the fans say – are idea for indoor flight. It features a camera which can be tilted to an aggressive angle (so it is level when the drone is traveling forward at speed), atop a very strong frame, this drone is the perfect craft to master the skills of FPV racing. It’s durable enough to survive the knocks, has a strong radio, and the powerful brushless motors can reach stunning speed.
The analogue video system eliminates the digital encoding/decoding latency which toy drones are prone to, so you feel a direct connection to the world you see through your goggles. There are three modes to get you going, but it is tricky to master and there are a wealth of options which could be bewildering to non-geeks; this is really a gateway drug to quad racing.
If you’re looking for a half-way house, EMAX’s EZ Pilot has more beginners' features.
The DJI Mini 2 is far from modestly priced, and you’ll need to add the optional propellor guards for indoor flight, but it produces the best quality visual output of anything on this list and will serve as a 12-megapixel/4K camera drone too, so it might be the only drone you need (it’s on our list of best camera drones).
Outdoors the drone has altitude sensors and GPS to help it hover in place, but indoors the Mini 2 uses a ‘visual positioning system’ (sometimes known as ‘optical flow’) to track the surface beneath it, which means it can reliably hover in a well-lit room with some texture to the floor but, in the dark, or on a perfectly even surface, there is some risk of drifting (though no more than other indoor drones).
This is also a distinctive tool for creatives inside and out (though do remember that the propellor guards push it over the registration weight when outdoors, so take them off). The ‘Cine’ mode, for slow flight, mean you can sneak along corridors and round corners to capture smooth dolly-like shots. The only real worry is the down-draft; it’s light compared to a prosumer drone, but pushes a lot more air around than the others on this list, so don’t fly it over any lose papers!