If You Want to Fly Your DJI Drone, You Better Register It
DJI announced software upgrades across its drone lines that will require registration to enable full features.
The moment you first open a box with a new toy is an exciting one, and if that toy is a drone, it's especially exciting. You want to get it unwrapped and flying (and, if you aren't careful, crashing) as soon as possible. However, DJI is going to slow that process down a step, as all drones sold will now be limited out of the box to a height of 98 feet and a flight a radius of 164 feet—until you register them with DJI. If you already have an account with DJI, you don't have to do anything more. If you don't, you'll now have to register in order to have that flight restriction lifted.
This is at least partially a response to last week's appeals court repeal of a 2016 regulation requiring all drone purchasers to register with the FAA. While commercial drone pilots (including commercial applications like flying for film shoots) still need to pass a certification exam and get FAA registration, consumers do not. Registration of your drone with DJI ensures that your drone, and DJI, know where the drone is located and that it follows any local rules and regulations regarding drone flight.
DJI software already prevents flying of drones into illegal and dangerous areas, such as permanently banned areas like airports or dynamically problematic spots like wild fires, and enforces the good flying practices via software that the FAA would've encouraged through registration. By forcing you to register the drone with DJI, the company can ensure that the drone isn't being tampered with to trick it into thinking it's somewhere it's not. If you have permission to fly in an area that DJI has labeled as restricted, there is a process for unlocking it by logging in through the Go app, verifying your info (with your phone number, for example) and then unlocking the zone temporarily.
Last year, DJI made all of Syria and Iraq no-fly zones, and while it's possible to hack around the location of a drone so that it can fly in a no fly zone, it's likely that DJI is beefing the security of the software that locks in a drone's knowledge of its own location. Adding the requirement to register the drone with DJI further improves that security, making it even harder to trick DJI drones into flying where they shouldn't. So be prepared: if you are shopping for a DJI drone, you're going to have to register it before you can go really crazy with it. While you're at it, maybe take the time to watch a few tutorials on how to fly it, too.