Hobbyists and Hackers Are Overriding DJI Drone Flight Restrictions at a Rapid Pace

The Chinese drone company's "No Fly Zone" software in its drones that stops users from entering airports or military airspace is being overridden by hobbyists and hackers.

Brendon Thorne / Stringer/ Getty

DJI drones use software which implements geofencing flight restrictions, preventing its consumer drones from being flown into airports and other restricted areas, or reaching unregulated altitudes. Recently, it seems that this regulatory software which DJI calls "No Fly Zone" (NFZ) is being overridden more rapidly and more easily than ever before by hobbyist hackers and general users. Users can easily download patches or simply visit various websites where these software packs are sold and shared. In the era of the internet, overriding a basic line of code in a basic piece of software isn't too difficult—and DJI is very concerned.

According to ZDNet, DJI's technology security director Victor Wang is adamantly urging users not to compromise the integrity of the company's products as those actions could lead to potentially endangering others due to irresponsible drone use. He said that the "Unauthorized modification of a DJI drone is not recommended, as it can cause unstable flight behavior that could make operating the drone unsafe."

While Wang's statements are obvious and understandable, the desire to have, essentially, and "unlocked" drone is one that many can understand. There is a fine line, however, between freedom and security, and that line will likely never be agreed on completely. There have to be certain regulations, and preventing UAVs from entering the airspace of military bases or airports seems fairly reasonable.

In the last few weeks, DJI has issued software updates that eliminate this recent unlocking by users. However, there are obviously still old versions of the OS available online which can be used as the foundation for this software hack. A spokesman for DJI said that the company is thoroughly investigating the issue, and that the company will "issue software updates to address them without further announcement." This is an expected response from a company responsible for as big of a market share of the drone industry as DJI is. Professional, and on the side of safety, as to not upset shareholders or consumers. 

What do you think? Should the FAA or companies like DJI be able to restrict or limit control over your own drone? Once you've purchased it, and you own it, do they have the moral right to restrict your behavior?

We'll be sure to keep you posted regarding this complicated issue DJI is being forced to deal with. Stay tuned.