giant warehouse

Part 107 Escape the Room!

Yesterday was one of those days when we had to think on our feet!

I had been asked to capture some shots from both inside and outside a newly renovated warehouse in PA. Like a lot of these, it was on again, off again for a while as the location was still being worked on but they were finally ready.

Automatic data capture

I had mapped out the exterior shots ahead of time using some new software called DroneLink with a view to saving time on site. This new software allowed me to preview everything in 3D on Google Earth before leaving and capture everything automatically on-site. I had tested it using smaller missions already and was feeling pretty confident even though the software is only just out of beta.

For the interior – it was a complete unknown.


The weather recently has been super windy. The day before the shoot was steady at 30mph with gusts up to 67mph! It was forecast to calm down for the day of the shoot but, not until the afternoon. I could have postponed until Monday but, since it was due to snow on Saturday, that would not have been ideal.

Stopping for gas on the way there I had to push the door of the car HARD to get it open against the wind, and a nearby flag was completely horizontal. Hmmm…

Escape the Room

Once on-site, I felt as though I was in an Escape the Room puzzle event.

The building is currently unoccupied and so to get in I had to drive up to the main gate, walk to another gate to find the lockbox, put in a code and I then receive 3 keys. I used one key to open the padlock on the main gate, but even then you couldn’t open the gate because it was powered and on a chain. Another key had to be used to open the door to the gatehouse, and then find the buttons that powered the gate. Phew!


Driving to the other end of the building was when we really start to see just how big this thing is. At almost 2,000ft along the long edge, even driving to the other side seems to take a while.

Can you see my car? Look closer!

We decided to shoot inside first to allow the wind to drop and the temperature to climb a bit.

The plan was to fly the drone around the entire perimeter of the building inside to show the size and also point out some of the new fixtures and fittings.

Flying the drone would be no problem because the space was enormous, but the lighting was another matter.

The lights turned on automatically as we walked into each section but they only stayed on for 8 minutes. It wouldn’t be enough time to walk around the room to turn the lights on and then fly the Drone before the lights turned off. Some creative thinking it was going to be required.

I called the client and asked if there was a way that we could bring the car inside the warehouse. It turns out that was, and so another Escape the Room debacle ensued where my VO walked around inside the warehouse to find the magic door while I located it on the outside with the car.

Once inside I fixed a stabilized camera to the front of the car with a large suction cup and we then started the procedure of driving around inside the section to Turn All the Lights On, then hit record (from an app in the car) and drive around again to capture the footage we needed.

I then decided that a few drone shots from inside would also be good in the new section and so we put a drone up with a view to taking a high panning shot to show how big the space is.

Ironically, when flying inside with no GPS the app would not allow me to go above 50 ft in altitude and that actually wasn’t high enough for me to get the shot I wanted I still had plenty of Headroom in this giant space.

I grabbed some shots with the Drone and then climbed a staircase to an upper level. I then asked my VO drive around inside the facility to turn the lights on while I took some panning shots.

The funny thing was the minivan he was driving that looked just like a toy in this giant space.

This is a minivan – not a mini!

By driving instead of walking, we were able to capture the entire building in just an hour. Whereas walking the perimeter of this was a 25-minute journey.


After grabbing a few more shots of the halls and large rooms we moved outside to start the actual drone capture portion.

Fortunately, this facility was in a valley and the wind was a bit calmer down here. It was still breezy though and the temperature was only about 22f.

Every time I stepped out of the car I immediately started shaking, and my hands were freezing even wearing gloves. This would have to be a programmed shot if any smoothness was to be maintained.

App issues!

When I tried to run the new software that I had carefully pre-programmed I started receiving errors that implied my trusty old iPad Pro was no longer up to the task. A later conversation with the developer seemed to confirm this.

Time for plan B…

I opted to switch to using Litchi, which is something I have been using for years. And, since I had that on both the iPad and the Crystal Sky monitor, I switched to the Crystal Sky as the iPad is not great in the cold.

Now I couldn’t get Litchi to load on the Crytal Sky – it kept telling me I had to be logged into the Amazon app store to run it. Litchi logged me in through the app but that didn’t actually fix the problem.

Finally, I logged directly into the App store without going through Litchi and found there was an app update waiting.

With the software updated I then found that the site was so large that I couldn’t use the orbit function in Litchi as it wouldn’t create an orbit large enough to keep the building in the frame.

Time for Plan C…

I switched over to Wapoint mode and created a manual path around the site with nice large curves the gave a similar impression.

Great. Back in business!

With the app now running I tried to run this newly created mission I found that it simply wouldn’t start.

It didn’t give any errors, but nothing happened.

OK. Plan D then…

Since I had the same software on the iPad I switched back to the iPad and tried to run it on that. It still didn’t start but it did give me an error message that narrowed things down to the max altitude being lower than one of the waypoints. Since we were using AGL some of the waypoints were almost 600ft from take off. After a quick fix, we will finally up in the air.


We captured the fake orbit and I was just about to start on the next section when, due to the excessive, cold my iPad just completely shut down mid-flight.

Fortunately, I’ve been flying long enough now to know how to fly without any apps. We brought the Drone back manually and switched back over to the Crystal Sky monitor for the remainder of the shoot.

Then it was a reverse procedure to get the car out of the lot and, finally, we were on our way home.


In all an exhausting day, but a lot was learned. My old iPad has now been traded in for a nice new model. My VO, Mike, managed to get a full share of on-location education and the client will come in Monday to a folder full of images ready to be used.

4 thoughts on “Part 107 Escape the Room!”

  1. Wow Barry! What a great story how you overcame a number of issues which would have stopped many of us in our tracks and your ability to overcome them by thinking literally outside the “warehouse box”

    1. Thanks, Stan. On the drive up I was talking with Mike and explaining how Aerial photography and videography will often require thinking on your feet and finding solutions when things get in the way. He certainly got to see a few of them that day!

  2. Pingback: Monster Warehouse - Part Deux - Avios Aerial MediaAvios Aerial Media

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