Last week, DJI introduced a new v1.10.4 update for the DJI Fly smartphone app for use with its drones. Its release brought a more realistic, human-style voice for various alerts and notifications. While it also fixed and optimised various other little things, this was the big change in the app. This is why we didn’t cover the release here on DIYP, because who cares about a voice change, right?
Well, it seems that the v1.10.4 update also brought about a big issue for drone users in the EU. DJI typically allows users to change their maximum altitude from 50m to 500m. This allows them to adjust their height limit based on elevations in terrain as they fly. The recent app update, however, limited their maximum altitude to 120 metres (~400ft) above the takeoff point.
So why is this a problem? Isn’t the altitude limit for drones in the EU (and much of the rest of the world) 120 metres or 400ft anyway? Well, yes, but not from the takeoff point. It’s 120 metres (or 400ft) from the ground over which the drone is flying. So, if you take off at an altitude of sea level and fly partway up the face of a mountain that’s 300 metres high, you are allowed to fly above that 300m point at an altitude of up to 420 metres.
With the v1.10.4 DJI Fly app update, you couldn’t rise to 420 metres. You’d be limited to 120 metres and fly straight into that hypothetical mountain – assuming obstacle avoidance doesn’t prevent it). Here’s what the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says about the maximum distance requirements from the ground and other obstacles.
How high can I fly my drone?
Your maximum flight height is generally 120 m from the earth’s surface. Please check whether the National Aviation Authority imposes a geographical zone with a lower limit in the area where you fly. If you need to fly over an obstacle taller than 120 m, you are allowed to fly up to 15 metres above the height of the obstacle, but only if there is an explicit request from the owner of the obstacle (e.g. a contract with the owner to perform an inspection). In such a case, you may fly within a horizontal distance of 50 metres from the obstacle.
When you are operating in hilly environments, the height of the drone above the surface of the earth should be within the grey zone in the picture below: you need to keep the drone within 120 m of the closest point of the terrain. This means that there may be conditions such as on top of a hill where even if you keep your drone 120 m from the side of the hill, you are actually flying at a distance higher than 120 m above the bottom of the valley. So as long as you keep your drone within 120 m of the shoulder of the hill (as in the grey area in the picture below), your flight is legal.
Fortunately, DJI has now issued a fix for the issue they introduced last week with a new v1.10.6 update. The app isn’t specific about the issue that’s been fixed, just that it has “Fixed certain issues”. Obviously, it’s this one, as a lot of EU DJI drone pilots have been making a fuss about it ever since last week’s update was released. So, DJI didn’t have much choice but to jump on it and correct the problem.
The DJI Fly App update for iOS is available in the Apple App Store, The DJI Fly App update for Android is available to download and install from the DJI website – because DJI still has nothing in the Google Play Store.