DJI launches new software to block drones wandering into dangerous areas
In an effort to prevent a drone-related disaster, and perhaps an act of goodwill in light of the FAA's tightening rules around unmanned flight, DJI has started rolling out a new geofencing system designed to block its aircraft venturing into restricted airspace.
First announced back in November, DJI's Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) aims to give drone users real-time information on where they can and cannot fly. This may include areas where drones would pose a threat to public safety, such as the airspace over major sporting event or airports. By default, drones will not take off in or fly into these areas.
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DJI made proactive steps in this area early last year, when it released a firmware update for its drones that enacted a no-fly zone over the White House one week after a drone crash landed on its lawn. This followed an earlier, more basic flight limitation system which incorporated no-fly zones around some of the world's airports.
But launched as a public beta version on Thursday, the new GEO promises a more dynamic, multi-faceted solution for an airspace becoming increasingly populated with hobbyist drones. If a forest fire breaks out, for example, emergency services could take steps to implement a temporary no-fly zone over the blaze so they can tackle it unimpeded.
Pilots authorized to fly in areas that might be deemed unsafe will be able to unlock some, but not all of the restricted airspaces, though this will require a DJI user account. These accounts are verified with a credit card, debit card or cell phone number, which provides DJI with a means of accounting for the drone and pilot should the flight later be investigated by the authorities.
This desire to keep tabs on irresponsible pilots is a major factor behind the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) newest safety measure, an online registration database requiring hobbyists to log contact details with the agency in case something goes awry. It is still in the process of working out a similar system for those using drones for business, which it hopes to launch by (US) spring of 2016.
DJI's GEO public beta will work on its Phantom 3 and Inspire 1 drones following a firmware update, with the Chinese company planning to release a final version of the system after a "short" beta period.