DJI haven’t wasted any time, have they? No sooner did the FAA announce that hobbyists would no longer need to register their drones did DJI step in and say “Well, actually, you do”. DJI have announced that they’re going to be crippling drones pretty severely if they’re not registered with them. The changes come as part of new firmware updates for their drones. It’s also coming to future versions of the DJI Go and DJI Go 4 apps.
The changes, set to take effect at the end of this week, are to ensure you’re using appropriate geospatial information. All existing flight safety limitations, like geofencing and altitude limits, will stay the same. But, until you register, you won’t be able to fly more than 50m (164ft) away from you, and no more than 30m (98ft) high. And it covers all the popular DJI drones, like the Phantom 4 range, and Mavic Pro.
Over 770,000 users have registered with the FAA since their scheme was introduced in December 2015. I would bet that there are many who haven’t registered, too. So. the true number of drones in the USA is relatively unknown. Other than the potential threat of fines, there’s not been much to convince everybody to register. Some people would sooner just take the risk and save themselves $5.
Now, though, they won’t really even be able to fly without registering with Big Brother DJI. And it’s not just the USA, it’s all over the world. DJI’s release reads as follows.
DJI will soon introduce a new application activation process for international customers. This new step, to take effect at the end of this week, ensures you will use the correct set of geospatial information and flight functions for your aircraft, as determined by your geographical location and user profile. All existing flight safety limitations, such as geofencing boundaries and altitude limits, remain the same.
Even if you have registered when activating your aircraft upon purchase, you will have to log in once when you update the new version of DJI GO or GO 4 App. If you have forgotten your password since your initial login, you can reset it using a function within the DJI GO and DJI GO 4 apps.
You will need a data connection to the Internet for your smartphone or tablet when you log in, in order to verify the account information and activate the updated software or firmware. If this activation process is not performed, the aircraft will not have access to the correct geospatial information and flight functions for that region, and its operations will be restricted if you update the upcoming firmware: Live camera streaming will be disabled, and flight will be limited to a 50-meter (164-foot) radius up to 30 meters (98 feet) high.
The feature applies to all aircraft (except standalone A3 and N3) that have been upgraded to the latest firmware or when using future versions of the DJI GO and GO 4 apps.
DJI encourages pilots to always follow applicable laws and regulations in the countries where they operate, and provides information about these regulations on its FlySafe website at flysafe.dji.com.
Your DJI Team
It’s DJI’s attempt to minimise the potential legal issues and risks that come with flying a drone. The FAA have said in the past that it expected companies, not the government, to solve these problems. So, it looks like at least one company was listening.
If you’re not flying a DJI drone, you’re ok. Of course, DJI do manufacture the vast majority of drones for which the FAA previously required registration. Other manufacturers such as Yuneec, GoPro, etc. are safe for now, and under no real obligation to do the same. But that doesn’t mean they won’t follow suit.
There are many grumblings in various website comments and Facebook groups over this move from DJI. So, if the other manufacturers don’t follow on with something similar, it might upset the balance a little. Anything that potentially challenges DJI’s dominance of the drone market can only be a good thing, overall.