DJI drone flying in air
DJI refining geofencing and leaves AirMap

DJI is refining its geofencing tech, which will result in a more constrained airspace for drone flights near airports to give more protection to airplanes.

As drones break into the mainstream market, we’ve seen a growing number of aircraft incidences caused by drones. This GEO update hopes to prevent more of these incidences in the future. This upgrade will be backed by geospatial data from PrecisionHawk and will replace AirMap. AirMap’s a Santa Monica-based company that’s been doing business with DJI since 2015.

The update will be out in November. The revised areas will first take effect around US airports. Other regions will get the upgrades soon after.

“DJI is proud to once again lead the industry in developing proactive solutions for safety and security concerns,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs. “This is an enormous step forward for safely integrating drones into the airspace based on a more finely-tuned evaluation of risks associated with aircraft approaching and departing different types of airports.”

Three-dimensional safety zones

The new GEO system will create three-dimensional “bow-tie” safety zones surrounding runway flight paths. There will also be more complex polygon shapes around other facilities. Also, flights up to the sides of runways will be opened up. Risk of interfering with a plane in that area is very low.

GEO 2.0 applies risk-based airspace boundaries to the airspace around airports:

GEO airspace boundaries design for high, medium, and low risk airport
GEO airspace boundaries design for high, medium, and low risk airport

The update additionally incorporates the elements of the recently-enacted U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act. The Act calls for things like the active runways at major airports to be “runway exclusion zones” for unauthorized drones.

It’s recommended that DJI customers update their DJI GO 4 flight control app and aircraft firmware to make sure the updates are integrated.

The geofencing has been upgraded

In the past, DJI’s GEO system has been met with some criticism. It’s come in the way of police and commercial pilots. GEO does prevent DJI drones from taking off in certain locations without special authorization. However, pilots with verified DJI accounts can unlock certain no-fly zones upon approval.

Previously, the system geofenced a 5-mile circle around airports. The new rectangle system will open the areas more on the sides of the runways. This will be beneficial to drone users. It will also be more open to more low-altitude areas more than 1.9 miles from the end of a runway.

DJI dumps AirMap

One of the big takeaways from this announcement is DJI is choosing a new data provider, that being PrecisionHawk and no longer AirMap.

“DJI is pleased to partner with companies that support our vision of safe skies that are open to innovation,” Schulman said. “DJI pioneered geofencing for drones, as well as automatic altitude limitations, collision avoidance sensors and a mandatory knowledge quiz about safe flight rules. PrecisionHawk shares DJI’s commitment to ensuring that safety technology enhances the ability of recreational and professional drone pilots to fly.”

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Sean Berry
Sean Berry is a blogger and Videomaker Contributing Editor.