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Popular Drone Manufacturer to Restrict Flying in Controlled Airspace

Reaction to recent White House crash

DJI Phantom with a GoPro Hero

HONG KONG — DJI, a popular manufacturer of remotely controlled camera aircraft, commonly called UAVs or drones, announced that it will do a firmware update that will prevent the units from flying in restricted airspace in Washington, D.C., according to published reports. This is in reaction to the recent news story that an intoxicated government employee flew his personal drone near the White House, ultimately crashing the device on the First Lawn.

Since DJI and many other drone manufacturers have GPS capability built into the products, the units can be programmed to respond to location information. Using this technique, DJI can restrict its drones from flying in any restricted airspace, not just in Washington. Apparently, some drones are programmed to avoid restricted airspace in Beijing, China, and possibly other locations.

“We are updating the no fly zones to include the DC metropolitan area in accordance with FAA guidelines,” said Michael Perry, a spokesman for DJI, in an e-mail. “This was in the works for a while along with a larger push for airport no fly zones. We are pushing this out a bit earlier to lead in encouraging responsible flight.”

The airspace restriction is part of a firmware update that DJI will release for its consumer-oriented products, and it can be assumed that the restrictive version of the firmware will be loaded on all new consumer models from DJI. However, there is no word on whether older models from DJI will be somehow required to update their firmware. Also, commercial UAVs from DJI are exempt from the firmware update, for the moment.

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