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DJI rolls out new software to stop you flying your drone in restricted airspace

Flying Drone
LU YAO/Shutterstock
Keen to discourage the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from imposing overly zealous restrictions on the use of remotely controlled copters and the like, major drone maker DJI has launched a new geofencing system designed to help maintain order in the skies.

The system, called Geospatial Environment Online (GEO), rolled out on Thursday and is designed to stop drones flying in restricted areas.

Currently in beta, GEO is a more dynamic version of DJI’s existing flight limitation software that prevents drones from being operated in restricted zones such as airports.

Unlike the current software, GEO allows maps and restrictions to be updated anytime according to unfolding events like wildfires so responders can tackle the emergency situation without having to worry about camera-equipped drones getting in the way. It’d also work for special events such as sports games, allowing organizers to prevent irresponsible drone owners from flying their machines above both crowds and competitors. Once the event is over, relevant maps can be updated and flight restrictions lifted.

The new feature also means that for the first time, “drone operators will have, at the time of flight, access to live information on temporary flight restrictions,” DJI said in a release.

When DJI announced it was prepping the launch of GEO back in November, company executive Brendan Schulman said, “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.”

In some cases, the temporary restrictions can be bypassed by drone operators, though they’ll first need to register their machine with DJI. However, in places like Washington, DC, where national security is a concern, all drone flights will be permanently banned.

GEO is available to DJI drone owners in the U.S. and Europe via a Go app update and a drone firmware update. The Chinese company says it expects the beta phase to last a “short” time, after which the full version will be introduced.

With remotely controlled copters continuing to grow in popularity and concerns rising over the foolhardy few ruining it for everyone, the FAA recently launched a drone registry to help it more easily identify owners in the event of an incident.  The agency said it hopes the registry will also  help “foster a greater awareness on the part of users to learn the rules about flying safely” in U.S. airspace.

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