July 27, 2015

Aerial Filming in the Tate Modern

2 UAV's, 2 Pilots and One Huge, Complicated Tate Gallery!

Interior Aerial Filming

Post updated January 2018: Earlier this month, I received a phone call regarding some interior aerial filming work. It was from an artist who was showcasing his work in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London.

The brief was to highlight both his work and the sheer scale and layout of the Turbine Hall for the upcoming Turbine Festival in July 2015. After many emails and a LOT of paperwork including:

  • Pre-site surveys
  • On-site surveys
  • Risk assessments and so on

The job was booked in for one Saturday morning between 6.30am and 8.00am. Not a lot of time to get it all done.

Pilot in Command

Having recently qualified as a BNUC-s pilot for UAV's, this was an incredible opportunity to get into aerial work. To kick start this new "arm" of my imaging and multimedia business. It is interesting to note that because all the filming would be indoors. I would be outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Authority.

It is as though I was filming inside someone's house...a very big house!

One problem with filming indoors is that you cannot rely on, and therefore use, GPS. This means flying the UAV in ATTI mode or fully manual.


Flying in ATTI mode definitely brings about some issues but before I go into this, if you are going to be flying indoors, make a note of the following:

  1. 1
    Switch your failsafe mode to "land" and NOT "go home and land". You don’t want your UAV shooting up 30m and trying to reach a non-existent home point when indoors, especially in an expensive art gallery.
  2. 2
    The Phantom 2 has a further failsafe with regards to battery power. Once it reaches 20% (with the new firmware upgrade), it will again either "go home and land" or simply "land". Set it to “land”.

These apply to most DJI UAV's so make sure you check to see what your particular UAV has as failsafe's and set accordingly.

So, flying without GPS

I am used to and happy with flying outdoors and using GPS to assist my flying. Why not utilise anything to make your flying safer? As part of the BNUC-s exam, you have to show competency whilst flying in ATTI mode which is essentially manual mode without the use of GPS.

However, flying indoors in ATTI mode can cause issues.

As you may well be aware, the UAV becomes a lot more responsive and harder to control in ATTI mode. When indoors, you also have to contend with updraft and "bad air" from the floor, walls, ceiling and objects scattered about.

To start the flight, I went through all the usual checks and did some test manoeuvres. These included a simple "hover" in place to check for issues. There was some air-conditioning in the hall and of course, a little turbulence.

I got the Phantom 2 as stable as I could and performed a simple, slow turn. This immediately caused the UAV to go into an "elliptical" spin rather than the "turn on a sixpence" spin I am used to when using GPS.

This encouraged me to do all my filming head on, forwards, backwards or side to side with no turning or sudden movements. However, there was still a noticeable "drift" when flying.

Plan B

There was a minor issue with the Phantom 2, which doesn't fly incredibly well in this environment. Therefore, we switched to filming with the Inspire 1 from DJI. One benefit with the Inspire 1 that the Phantom 2 doesn't have, is vision positioning. This uses additional cameras on its base to assess height and give some control assistance.

However, as you can see from this forum thread on flying the Inspire 1 indoors, this UAV also has its own issues!

When flying outside using GPS, you get incredibly stable flying. Flying outside in ATTI mode, you have a lot of space in which to practice and correct.

Then when flying in ATTI mode indoors, you need 2 operators and very steady, slight and slow movements.

DJI Inspire 1 only

In the end, we resorted to plan B and used only the Inspire 1 from then on and the results were pretty good. The results from the Phantom 2/Go Pro 4 were superb as well but I didn't trust the Phantom 2 indoors.

There was still difficulty in holding the UAV steady which made it very hard to get long, sweeping camera shots. This meant flying the same clip again and again.

Bear all this in mind if you have a commercial indoor flying job coming up.

So, with the help of another pilot and the Inspire 1, we ended up with some great 4K footage. This from both the Phantom 2 and Go Pro 4 Black, Inspire1 and additional "ground" footage from the Panasonic GH4. We got the job done.

The Video

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