Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crashed Drone Prompts DC No Fly Zone


The quadcopter that crashed on the White House lawn last week. Photo: U.S. Secret Service


Drones are a pretty contested topic in the government right now, as the public calls for laws and exemptions for use and the FAA cries that they don’t know what to do and it might be a long time until they get it together.

So, in an exemplary form of judgment, a government employee decided to fly his friend’s drone in Washington D.C. and accidentally crashed it on the lawn of the White House. The employee, reports say, was off duty and was not in a department related to drones at all. He was, however, drunk and obviously not thinking very clearly. By itself, that isn’t really news. However, in light of this incident, Phantom drone maker DJI has decided to add Washington DC to the list of no-fly zones for their drones.

Here’s what they told GPS World:

“The restriction is part of a planned extension of DJI’s No Fly Zone system that prohibits flight near airports and other locations where flight is restricted by local authorities,” DJI said. “These extended no fly zones will include over 10,000 airports registered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and will expand no fly zones to ensure they cover the runways at major international airports.

“DJI is also continuing to update its no-fly zone list in compliance with local regulations to include additional sensitive locations and to prevent flight across national borders. These new safety features will be released across DJI’s flying platforms in the near future.”

The new no-fly zone will include a 15 mile radius around D.C. and will be patched to several different drones in the form of a firmware update. Drones that will get the update include the Phantom 2, Phantom 2 Vision and the Phantom 2 Vision ++ models. From what I can gather, no-fly zones are set up similar to geofences, and using GPS, the drones can sense when they are in a no-fly zone and they will either avoid it or simply not fly once inside.

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