There are lots of places where drone pilots are not supposed to fly: over sports stadiums, near airports, or anywhere in Washington, DC. DJI, the world's largest consumer drone company, has had a technology in place for a few years now that is meant to prevent pilots from flying into these restricted airspaces. But it didn't alert or prevent pilots from flying into airspace where the FAA had issued a temporary flight restriction, near a raging forest fire, for example.
Today DJI announced that it will be updating its system, dubbed GEO, to include temporary restrictions around events like forest fires, big sporting contests, and visits with national security concerns, such as presidents and popes. "Safety is DJI’s top priority, which is why we first introduced geofencing technology three years ago and have been steadily refining the industry’s best technology to enhance aviation safety," said Brendan Schulman, DJI vice president of policy and legal affairs, who led the development of the new system. "Drone pilots want to fly safely, and our GEO system helps DJI customers fly responsibly while also enabling the full capabilities of remotely piloted aircraft."
The new system adds in a number of new restrictions around permanent locations like prisons and nuclear power plants. But it also tries to make the GEO system more flexible. Users can now register with DJI to be authorized for operation in certain locales. An airport safety inspector whose job involves flying drones over the tarmac, for example, could be authorized by DJI and disable GEO restrictions. The same would hold true for a firefighter authorized to help battle a blaze with a drone.
The recent announcement by the FAA that it will simplify the process for flying a commercial drone means that the number of drones operating over the United States is likely to increase substantially over the next few years. Operators will no longer need a full fledged pilot's license, meaning they may have considerably less knowledge of the rules and regulations governing the airspace than previous generations of flyers.