A move in the right direction from DJI. But is it enough?

A firmware update will stop users flying close to specified airfields, the list is small and standing out immediately is a lack of large military airbases around the world. You will still be able to fly around them! The firmware also limits the height the Phantom can fly to, another great feature.

All things considered as a first step it has to be commended. Well done DJI.

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  • Developer

    @Pedals, well said. I haven't looked into it yet, but I sure hope this otherwise much needed feature can be turned off. I know exactly where and how I can fly safely (and legally) with regards to the local airport.

    If you turn the no-fly zones feature off, you are actively taking responsibility for your own actions. Which from a legal standpoint I think is what DJI really cares about.

  • The section of the FAA modernization act law regarding model aircraft doesn't really say much of any substance.  That says what the FAA shall not make any regulation against.  It doesn't say what they can do or what we can do.  It doesn't what we cannot do either.  It just says the FAA shall not try to regulate hobby model aircraft, and defines it. This is completely irrelevant and does not impose any regulation at all on us.

    I think the concept of limiting what some random buy-and-fly idiot can do is a good thing for the rest of us.  Every time some moron not knowing any better takes a Phantom out of the box and flies it willy nilly wherever they want, it is make those of us who are more professional look bad.  Just like the idiots mishandling guns make the rest of us reasonable and intelligent gun owners look bad.  If DJI's firmware prevents some fool from making the rest of us look bad, that's wonderful.  The problem is that it prevents the rest of us from intelligently using their product. The Phantom is a great RTF aircraft. But if this feature can not be disabled by the intelligent and safe fliers, they're going to lose us from their market.

  • I wonder how they define the locations of the airports as just a single center point or as an outline of the true airport area.

  • Developer

    I support the initiative, but a 8km zone is massive and does not make sense for small airports with only one lane and fixed flight paths. A 8km zone is MUCH larger then the nationally regulated safety-sone for the airports in Norway, and it's making the entire island where I live including the sanctioned local R/C club unusable for anything DJI.

  • I think it would be a really cool feature if it could be turned on and off.

    Turn it on by default but have the ability to turn it off as well.
    A good reason to have it on would be if you were near an airport and you had a fly away, having the drone drop dead as it got close to the airport could be a lifesaver.

  • There is something to be said for the liability you incur if you tell someone they are protected from something, and then don't protect them - if you claim that you can keep people out of restricted airspace, then you may be liable when it doesn't work the way it was supposed to.

    I wouldn't have a problem with APM having a built-in list of "default fenced-zones" for the new user, as long as it had an easy-to-use setting for choosing three options "Trigger Geofence Failsafe/Flash warning in GCS/Do nothing". Heck, you could even use the same interface to benefit users by allowing them to add their own "fenced locations" to their GCS. Instead of being something you modify for every mission, you could preset your local airport and your grouchy neighbor's yard, and ensure that those fences were automatically loaded into your quad each time.

    Another issue to consider is how automatic settings like this in the firmware will affect legitimate uses of flying in that airspace. Say you had the airports permission to photograph at an airshow, or were teaching a class at the airfield. There are legit times to fly there, and grounding those people wouldn't be a good way to support your customer (you know, the person actually giving you money).

  • @Dan, while my first comment was more of a jab, I still think you can still draw huge parallels between Apple and DJI.  Look at OSX, or iOS, it's locked down, you can't install just any software you want, and you can't view the source code; you're often at the mercy of the vendor.  In return you do get a product that's very polished, it "Just werks" out of the box, and I personally can confirm that DJI products works amazingly well out of the box.  

    Some people want that shiny polished macbook with a more limited OS, and are willing to give up that freedom.  Some people would rather take the time to setup Arch Linux; they have a lot more to setup and learn, but they don't have to deal with closed source limiting software. 

  • Personally, based on their demographic, I think this is a good thing. But, to play devils advocate, I can see it screwing them in the long run. It sets a precedent that they are determining where users can and cannot fly. So, say someone slams it into a plane at a small airport, is DJI now liable since they failed to mark it as an unsafe area? How about if it were to fly into a stadium and hit someone? Shouldn't that be off limits too?

    Either way, it's probably good that they buy-and-fly folks are at least having some restrictions placed on them before they screw up the whole community. 

  • I personally do not see a big issue with enforcing these types of zones. I do if it is politically motivated, for example their first bans appeared based on political request not safety concerns. Though, this seems like something that should be in the GSC not the firmware. 

    It should notify you that you are in a restricted zone and prompt you to accept responsibility for your actions rather than a flat out ban. Is it just me or are they going to end up filling up their firmware with special interest points?

  • @Pedals2Paddles on first page.  See the section of the US law below that I'm aware of regarding use of recreational model aircraft near airports.  I've tried this once by checking in with FAA flight service at a small airport in Alaska They basically told me no and suggested I fly further away from the airport, which I did.  I was more curious to find out what they'd say and not really concerned whether they would want me to or not. However, I did note the Roswell Flight Test Crew flew right next to the Ontario International Airport with permission from air traffic control in one of their videos.  

    Public Law 112-95

    Subtitle B--Unmanned Aircraft Systems


    (a) IGENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law note. relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies, including this subtitle, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration

    may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft, if— (1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

    (2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community- based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;

    (3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program adminis- tered by a community-based organization;

    (4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and (5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).

    (b) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.

    (c) MODEL AIRCRAFT DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘model aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—

    (1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

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