A Beginner’s Guide to Drone Geofencing
Drones come with all types of smart features nowadays, but one of the most important features that you might not know drones have is called ‘geofencing’.
Geofencing can be used in a number of different ways and as you know, here at Uplift Drones, we’re all about helping you, the customer – so to help explain what geofencing is and how it benefits your overall flight experience, here is our beginner’s guide to drone Geofencing.
What exactly is Geofencing?
To break it down completely – GEO means geographical area and FENCING refers to the creation of a virtual barrier.
So essentially, drone geofencing is the process of creating a virtual geographic boundary or barrier around a specific area by using GPS or RFID technology.
Once the Geofence has been established, if a mobile device enters or leaves the ‘geofenced’ area, a trigger is released to both the administrator and the person who has entered/left that zone.
So, how is this used with drones?
While geofencing can be used in a number of different ways, when it comes to drones geofencing tends to be used for safety reasons; mainly based around complying with aviation agency regulations.
Geofencing is now often used in certain ‘sensitive areas’ such as airports and power plants in the hope of preventing ‘near misses’ between consumer drones and aeroplanes, as well as adhering to stricter rules and regulations that are now in place.
All of this sounds great, we know, but what’s out there for you, the prosumer? Well two of the biggest companies in the field have exciting drone geofencing options – both focused on safety and stability.
DJI recently announced that it has improved its Geofencing system.
DJI’s drone geofencing system currently uses GPS features, alongside other navigational satellite signals, to automatically provide an alert and help prevent drones from flying near sensitive locations which include airports, nuclear power plants and prisons.
DJI claim that they have improved their system so professional drone pilots with authorisation to fly in sensitive locations can now use a new ‘streamlined application process’ to receive unlocking codes within 30 minutes.
The company says that the improvements have been ‘carefully designed to help expand the beneficial uses of drones in sensitive areas’ previously restricted in DJI’s geofencing system; while also promising that it will staff its global authorisation team around the clock to help process applications and provide the unlocking codes.
“DJI now processes most requests within 30 minutes, though requests involving unusual circumstances or requiring additional documentation may need additional time,” said Michael Perry, Managing Director of North America at DJI.
“By making it easier for authorised pilots to put drones to work in sensitive areas, DJI is once again showing why professional drone operators choose our aerial platforms for the most important tasks.”
Brendan Schulman, Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs at DJI added: “DJI first implemented geofencing in 2013, and it is now established as an important tool to help our customers make thoughtful flight decisions, while also addressing legitimate concerns about safety and security by helping prevent unauthorised flights in the most sensitive locations.
“These improvements illustrate DJI’s ongoing commitment as the industry leader to continually improving the safety features we implemented years ago, while enabling beneficial applications for our technology.”
How to use DJI’s Geo System
Professional drone pilots can apply to unlock restricted zones via DJI’s website:
DJI’s GEO System custom unlocking request page
From here, simply click on the ‘Unlocking Requests’ button and it will take you to a page where you can easily enter information about your aircraft and controller, while it also allows you to add the authorisation documents supplied by the controlling authorities in areas where you wish to fly.
Alongside the Custom Unlocking, DJI’s GEO System helps customers make thoughtful flight decisions and prevent flights in locations that would raise concerns with their Self-Unlocking system.
Here, you’ll find four different types of zones – Restricted Zones (Red), Authorisation Zones (Yellow), Warning Zones (Green) and Enhanced Warning Zones (Green).
You must have special authorisation to operate in a Restricted Zone, such as at a busy airport or over a power plant, otherwise they will be off limits.
There are two ways to unlock authorisation zones, the first is Live Self-Unlocking through the DJI GO or DJI GO 4 app.
Make sure you are connected to the internet and through either the DJI GO or DJI GO 4 apps; you can unlock an Authorisation Zone when you take off inside of or fly into one. Unlocking lasts for just 24 hours and requires a few simple on-screen steps.
The second process used is called Scheduled Self-Unlocking – used if you cannot access the internet.
For this process, you can use the Online Flight Planner to schedule up to 30 simultaneous unlocking plans; with each unlocked zone remaining unlocked for three days.
Simply select the aircraft that you are planning to use, input your flight controller serial number (found on your main flight screen through the transmitter symbol), and the dates that you wish to fly.
DJI’s GEO System schedule self-unlocking process
Once your request is approved, go to the Camera View, select General Settings, and select Unlocking List in the DJI GO or DJI GO 4 app to confirm your flight license has been downloaded.
After this, you will be able to fly in the Authorisation Zone without a network connection.
The Authorisation Zone will be unlocked starting at 0:00 (local time in the selected zone) on the day you choose for unlocking and will expire on the third day at 23:59 (local time in the selected zone).
You must have a DJI user account verified with a credit card, debit card, or mobile phone number to unlock an Authorization Zone.
Looking to rival DJI’s dominance, Yuneec introduced a drone geofencing system with their Typhoon H; in the hope of ensuring safe flying for their drone users.
Their ‘No Fly Zone’ feature and ‘Smart Circle’ design ensures that you are flying as safe as you possibly can.
Yuneec’s visual representation of their geofencing system
It has a built-in GPS that establishes a 26ft (8m) diameter ‘Smart Circle’ around the pilot when taking off and landing, while it also creates a Geo Fence that keeps the aircraft from travelling farther than 300ft (91m) from the pilot’s position and 400ft in the air, the legal flying height.
Now (hopefully) you know a bit more about drone Geofencing and how it can benefit you are out flying!