Drone regulations are coming into full swing, and major manufacturers are showing their support for the controversial rulings. Recently, DJI announced a new way to help accommodate the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) views on best practices for drones. The group launched a new system called GeoSpatial Environment Online (GEO) that warns users about restricted locations, like Washington D.C. and airports. Secure facilities, such as prisons and power plants, are also included on the no-fly list. When implemented, the feature will prevent a UAV from taking off in secure spaces. Drone owners will also receive updates for temporary restricted areas like stadium events and forest fires.
“DJI invented geofencing over two years ago and now continues its industry leadership by balancing enhanced safety with the flexibility of accountable self-authorization,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI’s vice president of policy and legal affairs, who led the development of the new system. “We believe this major upgrade to our geofencing system will do even more to help operators understand their local flight environment, and to make smart, educated decisions about when and where to fly their drones.”
The security feature isn’t for everyone. Individuals who are using DJI drones for commercial or business purposes can deactivate some of the limitations. To do this, owners will have to verify their account with the brand, via payments or contact information. The process is a precautionary measure in case something happens while flying in unauthorized spaces. It is important to consider that unlocking the system will not remove flight restrictions for all areas on the no-fly list. The company did not explain how it would apply the feature for individuals who use their drones for both personal and commercial engagements. However, it did clarify that the system will treat all operators the same, and the software is ultimately designed for recreational users who are unaware that such restrictions exist.
DJI partnered with Airmap to provide the geofencing service. The secondary group works with government agencies worldwide to provide real-time information about airspace restrictions. For now, the system only works with the Phantom 3 and Inspire 1, though the company will likely make the feature mandatory for its future releases. The feature is free to use via the latest DJI Go app and drone firmware (the system only works when it’s connected to a device with Internet service). The system also appears to be under public beta and will go through a series of updates before it goes official.
The company seems to be sending mixed views about geofencing on its website. With the FAA pushing for drone registration, the brand may have been pressured to comply with the authority’s guidelines. “In virtually every area that might be a good candidate for a geofence, we have encountered authorized operators worldwide already engaged in compelling applications. Restricting the use of drone technology based on geographic location alone is not a good solution to the concerns that have recently been raised, and will hobble the beneficial future uses of a technology that is still in its infancy,” said DJI.