DJI just made a weird but ultimately sensible announcement. The next firmware updates for all of its drone models will require users to log into the website for a “new application activation process.” If you don’t, DJI will turn your drone into a lame hunk of plastic that barely flies.
This is actually a really responsible move on DJI’s part. By impelling customers to log in to their DJI accounts and activate the latest firmware for their drones, the company will be able to sync up each device with the specific regulations of the country where it’s being operated. (Note: Customers in China, where DJI is headquartered, won’t be required to go through this new activation process.)
Meanwhile, the consequences for not activating the drone through DJI’s website are tough but fair. If you don’t go through the process, your drone’s range will be limited to a laughable 164-foot (50-meter) radius, and it won’t be able to fly higher than 98 feet (30 meters). By contrast, the maximum transmission range for the DJI Phantom 4 is over three miles. The camera also won’t be able to stream images or video to your phone or controller, which makes aerial photography more or less impossible.
It should be noted that DJI’s quasi-registration process has nothing to do with the Federal Aviation Administration’s very official registration process. Recreational drone pilots in the United States will still need to register their drones with the FAA, study up on all the rules, and label all aircraft with their unique UAS certificate number. Commercial drone pilots must take a test and get verified by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to earn a remote pilot certificate. Even still, the FAA still expects drone manufacturers and the drone industry as a whole to lead the way in drone safety. By requiring its hardware to obey local regulations, DJI effectively removes a layer of accountability if a pilot breaks the rules.
So update your shit before going DJI drone flying this weekend folks. The new activation process kicks in at the end of this week. All you have to do is update your firmware through the DJI GO or GO 4 app and then log into your DJI account. This will activate the new firmware and ensure that your drone doesn’t get crippled.