DJI’s new firmware has certainly stirred the pot in the professional community. With restrictions popping up in unexpected places, the professional drone pilot community has been deluged with stories of unfulfilled contracts and sometimes downright enragement over this new firmware. But what’s really going on?
What’s the issue?
With the release of the newest product in DJI’s consumer line, the Spark, came a firmware update that… “sparked” the controversy (pun intended). If you don’t know, professional flyers have a special certificate from the FAA known as a ‘Part 107,’ which allows you to charge for your services. This certificate reflects your knowledge of how to properly navigate airspace per FAA regulations.
When DJI introduced the consumer-friendly Spark drone, it also introduced new firmware that was not so friendly to professional flyers.
For example, we all know (or should at least) that flying within 5-miles of an airport is restricted airspace. There are different classes of restricted airspace, which we don’t need to discuss in detail here, but one way to get around these restrictions is to call the tower responsible for the airspace and give them an advisement of when you’ll be flying, and for how long. They’ll come back and let you know if you’re cleared or not.
How DJI handled this in the past
In previous versions of the DJI firmware, if you were flying in an area with restrictions, a warning would pop up and you could simply click an acknowledgement button, then go ahead and fly. This was great for pros, but unfortunately some non-Part 107 pilots have made life difficult for all of us by clicking this acknowledgement and proceeding to fly where they shouldn’t. For example, just look at the recent case of pilot flying a drone → continue…