A Russian-based company is selling hardware and software hacks that disable the DJI drone No Fly Zone (NFZ) feature that prevents their UAVs from flying in restricted air space.
DJI is among one of the biggest drone manufacturers in the world and therefore regularly faces pressure from the public and authorities for being partially responsible for the safety of their products. Even though full responsibility still remains in the hands of drone pilots, DJI implemented a drone No Fly Zone feature (or Geofence) to their products. It is an informational feature which uses GPS and prevents DJI drone pilots from flying in, or taking off from, restricted zones. There are already many areas in the DJI map where their drones will not be able to fly, like airports for example.
A Russian-based hacker group called CopterSafe reacted to this restriction by selling products that disable the implemented drone No Fly Zones feature on DJI machines. Those are of course of dubious legality – and they offer both software and hardware hacks for various DJI models in various price categories. They even offer software that removes altitude and speed limitations of DJI drones. This seems to be similar to chip-tuning a car, enhancing the machine’s performance at the risk of damaging it or shortening the drone’s or the battery’s life span.
cinema5D IN NO WAY endorses or recommends hacking or modifying your drone in any shape or form, neither through software nor hardware modifications. We consider this quite dangerous, and there are reasons for the no-fly zones that are pre-programmed into these drones.
According to CopterSafe, the responsibility for flying the drone safely should be fully in the hands of the pilot and not regulated by the manufacturer. They developed these hacks after being unable to fly in one of DJI’s drone No Fly Zones even though they actually had a permit from local authorities. They say that DJI’s no fly zones don’t conform with local laws and that CopterSafe software “allows DJI customers to use their products in the way they want”.
Ethics and legality
The ethics of this software are questionable. We are seeing more and more cases of safety threats related to irresponsible drone pilots, like this one for example. This raises some concerns about whether some DJI customers are responsible enough to decide if their flight is a safety threat or not. In many cases the consequences can be fatal and drone regulations on a global level are poised to become more restrictive because of that.
DJI of course officially discourages disabling this safety feature. They state that disabling the NFZ feature can also affect other features of the drone and can cause unexpected behaviour.
Do you think the NFZ feature is a good idea and flying drones should be restricted by the manufacturer? Or should drone pilots be given the freedom to fly wherever they want? Should you be able to switch off the the drone No Fly Zone feature? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.