back to article DJI: Register your drones or no more cool flying vids for you

Chinese drone maker DJI is forcing all new users of its drones to register their devices through its app - and is throttling flight performance if they don't comply. The new application activation process will restrict DJI drones to a maximum height of 98 feet (30 metres) and a lateral sphere of 164 feet (50m) around the …

  1. Frank Bitterlich
    Big Brother

    Way to go!

    "This move seems to mirror the sort of compulsory registration measures that regulators in the EU and the UK are currently mulling over. [...] people are less likely to use their drones for naughtiness if the authorities are looking over their shoulders..."

    And the "authorities", in this case, is a Chinese company. And it is only to ensure legal operation, not data slurping, of course.

    "Last month DJI quietly geofenced off large chunks of Iraq and Syria in conjunction with a US-led military offensive..."

    Yes, please, give me a drone where the manufacturer can add limitations remotely, retroactively and without my consent. Of course that would only happen if I'm a "terrorist."

    1. oxfordmale78

      Re: Way to go!

      All those thousands of drones registered to 10 and 11 Downing street, do May and Hammond really have the time to play with them all ?

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: Way to go!

      Sometimes I am not sure whether we should be blaming the company for having this control, or blaming the dipshits who fly drones in places they shouldn't and may have caused the company to try and protect their chance to sell drones in the future.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    throttling flight performance if they don't comply

    Developer? Interested in challenging tasks / reverse engineering? Never been to Syria / Iran / Iraq / Afghanistan / No beard ? Interested in earning serious $$$? Then we might have job of a lifetime

    Yours (...)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: throttling flight performance if they don't comply

      Just don't mention the mandatory execution after the project has been completed to ensure silence.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They might as well go the whole hog and just lease their gear to enthusiasts (drones as a service!) instead of selling the hardware with register-gated features. /s

  4. SkippyBing

    To be honest if this stops the casual buyer who picks one up in Maplins* from unintentionally doing something stupid/dangerous it's probably a good move. It's not going to stop someone who's determined to do something wrong from doing it, or anyone who's really enthusiastic about drones as a hobby from circumventing the measure, but there's still a large number of buyers who just don't realise what they can and can't do with a drone.

    *Other supplies of UAV are available.

  5. King Jack
    Devil

    Two Words... F..

    Just buy something else and watch this company disappear.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: Two Words... F..

      Quite, this is the kind of statement put out by companies to set themselves onto the moral high ground and polish their halos while in reality any rules/regs this is to meet will be very localised and could even encourage Government agencies to scope-creep. This is the last thing which was needed after the FAA got slapped down for trying much the same thing with no more legality behind them.

      If you want to have a real discussion about limiting non-commercial drones then do it. Make it very public and involve bodies running similar activities such as RC aircraft or hot air balloons and you will get a sensible result if you bother to listen.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two Words... F..

      "Just buy something else and watch this company disappear"

      Having been buzzed by drones a couple of times at crowded public events, with the operator no-where in sight, it's clear than a (possibly small) segment of the drone user community in the UK is either unaware of the rules about drone use or are simply flouting the rules:-

      http://dronesafe.uk/drone-code/

      I believe there is a possibility that DJI is trying to head off legislation against their product and trying to protect their business.

      Yes, I know legislation won't stop DIY drones or simply importing something dodgy from some internet seller, but it wouldn't surprise me if new laws regarding drones (and model aircraft) came in with very little warning in the not too distant future.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two Words... F..

        Having been buzzed by drones a couple of times at crowded public events, with the operator no-where in sight, it's clear than a (possibly small) segment of the drone user community in the UK is either unaware of the rules about drone use or are simply flouting the rules:-

        So you just need pocket-sized SAMs to deal with them...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two Words... F..

      The moment an aircraft crashes due to moronic operation then CAA and CPS will ensure the first convicted drone operator will be made an example of.

      Is this what you want - a casualty to cause an indiscriminate ban?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two Words... F..

        All it will take is one occasion anywhere in the world where one or more cheap drones with an IED payload is flown into a big crowd resulting in death to lead to calls for indiscriminate bans of drones and/or heavy regulation to begin.

        Honestly, this makes more sense for terrorists since suicide bombers can only be used once, while drone operators at a distance stand a much better chance of getting away to wreak further mayhem in the future. They can also easily bypass metal detectors or bomb sniffing dogs at outdoor events such as sporting events in stadiums by merely flying over the gates/fences.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Two Words... F..

      Step 3, wait until they're out of business and then buy up the old hardware for cheap. You might need to provide your own controller but I'm sure the batteries and motors are useful.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't have a DJI drone

    But I would return it now if I had one. If I buy a product it is mine to do with as I see fit (law permitting of course). This kind of shenanigans is what you would expect from a Google or a Microsoft.

    I guess using customer data as a product is now considered "normal" to enough people for companies to get away with stuff like this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't have a DJI drone

      ref. "If I buy a product it is mine to do with as I see fit"

      There are precedents out there, you know. Like a certain advanced democracy that gets involved in a little bit of preventive censorship when you try to access online material deemed illegal. Same with the drone, it'll get hacked, or people (who for whatever reason don't want to share their details) will buy a product from a company which does not require registration.

      Until that moment, when purchasing a drone will be on par with buying a gun. It's possibly going to happen with the speed based on how the situation develops in one obvious field of use...

      1. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

        Re: Don't have a DJI drone

        there may be precedent. But that doesn't mean it's a righteous precedent or that it should be followed.

        I'd rather we did more to do something when a drone (or whatever product is being demonized at the time) *is* being misused, rather than massive restrictions for everyone on such things because of fears they *might* be misused.

        Bad precedents notwithstanding.

        Up next, those fidgety spinner things...register to Save Your Children Today! :P

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't have a DJI drone

      You may struggle. Remember the PS3 Linux debacle when Sony removed the ability for PS3s to run Linux? You had the choice of accepting their new firmware with no Linux, or could refuse it and find yourself cut off from the PS Network. There was a class action lawsuit that settled 6 years after it was first raised - you got $55 if you could prove you ever used Linux.

    3. GlenMidlandsUK

      Re: Don't have a DJI drone

      That's what this is for, to keep operation within local laws / regulations.... doh!

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    It'll take a week I reckon before hacked firmware is available.

    The big question is this though ... I buy one of their drones and go into the wood to practice flying it. There is no internet connectivity so can I use it unlimited or do I find I have no first person video straight away?

    What if I buy one and the company goes tits-up? If I can't register, I've brought an expensive target drone.

    This is a classic example of a company meaning well but implementing it badly.

  8. alain williams Silver badge

    DJI are ripping off open source

    I was given one of these ... it would not talk to my Linux machine, I then found that the firmware and MS .exes were built on Open Source (GPL) software. I asked for a copy of the source, they did not reply. this is all that I can find now.

  9. steviebuk Silver badge

    I assume we won't be going the registration route in the UK considering it's been canned in America and lots of people should be getting refunds.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To all the 'experts' here

    Do you know (without using Google) what NOTAM means?

    Geofencing/altitude controls (can easily be done with an XML feed/API access by the manufacturers) can ensure you get a happy flight, your drone doesn't get destroyed by a low-flying jet and a real pilot/passenger gets to live.

    Voluntary regulation should be preferable as opposed to CAA starting to dish a law you won't like.

    For example outright ban with heavy fines and custodial sentences on drones flying higher than 100 feet for non-licensed non-commercial operators.

    Is this what we want?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: To all the 'experts' here

      Is this what we want?

      Not really.

      What I WANT is the situation to get bad enough for me to be allowed to install CIWS on my roof.

      It may, however, be used not only on errant drones...

      1. thegroucho
        Joke

        Re: To all the 'experts' here

        Voland, sunshine, you want a railgun, not some pissy CIWS.

        You need bigger dreams!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To all the 'experts' here

      I'm a microlight pilot and drones do cause me some concern. I have to comply with a stack of regulations, registration, compulsory insurance and pass a shit load of exams before I could fly. I'm concerned that teenage kids can just buy these things and fly them without any training or real comeback. How many kids would even know how high their drone is, let alone keep it below the regulatory 400 feet?

      Some of these drones are quite big and could easily bring down an airliner if it smashed the cockpit windscreen or went into an engine. If one hit me while I'm flying my microlight I could be knocked unconscious or killed if one hit me in the face, or if it went through the prop force me to do an emergency landing with possible risk to people on the ground - when you've got no power, your landing choices are limited. A stricken airliner has even less choices and pose an even bigger risk to people on the ground.

      Sooner or later someone is going to do something really stupid with a drone and kill a number of people. Then the CAA will either bring in compulsory registration or ban them outright. A few reckless kids will likely spoil the fun for all other drone operators.

      1. SkippyBing

        Re: To all the 'experts' here

        'Some of these drones are quite big and could easily bring down an airliner if it smashed the cockpit windscreen or went into an engine.'

        Fortunately to be certified airliners have to prove capable of operating with one engine inoperative, and for certification purposes that happens before take-off at a point at which it's no longer possible to stop in the remaining runway available.

        Going through the windscreen will cause a certain amount of chaos though...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: To all the 'experts' here

          @SkippyBing. In ideal circumstances aircraft are designed to be operative with the loss of one engine, however if the aircraft is on its final approach and descending towards the runway, loss of an engine at that stage would be a very unwelcome distraction to the aircrew, forcing them to make changes to the power level of the other engine and control surfaces during the last few seconds to get the plane down onto the runway safely. It may be too late to go-around and line up with the runway again. The other issue is that the engine stopping may not be the end of it. Aircraft have been downed in dramatic fashion when fan blades have shattered and bits of them have penetrated the wing rupturing the fuel tank causing a fire or severing hydraulics causing considerable problems with the control of the aircraft.

          I think it is inevitable that a drone will sooner or later cause a major incident at a busy airport. When you consider that some people think it is "fun" to shine laser pointers into the eyes of pilots landing aircraft, they will likely find it similarly fun to fly a cheap, unregistered, untraceable drone over Heathrow at aircraft. They would no doubt get a big thrill out of hitting an airliner to see what happens.

          1. SkippyBing

            Re: To all the 'experts' here

            'In ideal circumstances aircraft are designed to be operative with the loss of one engine'

            I wouldn't call that ideal circumstances...

            'however if the aircraft is on its final approach and descending towards the runway, loss of an engine at that stage would be a very unwelcome distraction to the aircrew, '

            It may be, but that's why there's regular simulator training for the loss of an engine during critical stages of flight. Although if you're using lots of power on landing, you're doing it wrong so it's generally not considered the worst time to lose one. Unless you're in a helicopter.

        2. Triggerfish

          Re: To all the 'experts' here

          Fortunately to be certified airliners have to prove capable of operating with one engine inoperative, and for certification purposes that happens before take-off at a point at which it's no longer possible to stop in the remaining runway available.

          However should be noted this is not counted as optimal flying conditions. :)

    3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: To all the 'experts' here

      Yes, as a pilot I am well aware of what a NOTAM is, and so know that they have bugger-all relevance to the flying of drones, which should all be operating well outside any airspace used by manned aircraft.

      A drone could hardly be flown in accordance with the rules pertaining to manned aircraft - e.g. "no closer than 500 feet from a person, livestock or structure except for the purpose of take-off or landing" (Although I suppose it could be argued that anything with a flight time measured in minutes is permanently in the process of either taking off or landing).

      Having designed, built and flown several quadcopters, I don't see a lot of point if flying much above 150 feet or so AGL, except perhaps as a one-off to see how high it can get. The wide-angle cameras usually used need to be reasonably close to the subject, and most of my flights have been below 50 feet.

  11. Haku

    "compulsory registration"

    That'll help me sleep better at night, knowing the bad guys will be in a drone database so when they do bad things they can be tracked down and dealt with appropriately.

    Yeah, the bad guys will definitely register.

    And they'll only use drones that have the state mandated geofencing restrictions.

    Won't they?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "compulsory registration"

      Let us not try to put some sense and process, let it be free for all.

      Of course why would the police bother with weapon's register and all?

      Only gangsters use them to do naughty things.

      If a drone has a metal ID plate and that is found after an accident that would help track and bring the operator to book.

      That would then put the fear of (put your favourite deity here) in all the bozos who think they can do anything with impunity.

  12. Andy Non Silver badge

    And in this evenings news...

    "A drone has been involved in a near-miss with a plane making a descent into Edinburgh Airport.

    The pilot was forced to take evasive action during the incident which happened at about 13:10 on Friday. The unmanned craft was flying about 20-30 metres away from a Loganair flight from Shetland at about 4,000ft."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-40019778

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: And in this evenings news...

      "The unmanned craft was flying about 20-30 metres away from a Loganair flight from Shetland at about 4,000ft."

      A drone at 4000 feet?

      Sorry, I do not believe this at all.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: And in this evenings news...

        A drone at 4000 feet?

        Some like DJI can apparently get well past that, it's just software limited to 500m altitude from take off point.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: And in this evenings news...

          "

          Some like DJI can apparently get well past that, it's just software limited to 500m altitude from take off point.

          "

          Yes, they can, but there will be very few people who would take then that high for purely practical reasons.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: And in this evenings news...

            Fair enough I thought you meant the capability was not there.

            However when have people cared about practical? Flying in restricted airspace is not recommended some people still try it.

    2. WheelsUK

      Re: And in this evenings news...

      Quote

      "In the UK, airprox reports mentioning drones are relatively common, though some question whether all such reports actually involve drones or whether hyper-safety-aware airline pilots are leaping to conclusions and misreporting plastic bags caught by the wind."

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/23/dji_drone_register_no_live_vids_otherwise/

  13. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
    Flame

    Disposable email address

    Anyone who wants can set up a use once and throw away hotmail or gmail account for the registration and use a name and address from the electoral roll. The only people who will be badly affected by DJI are the law abiding majority - anyone intending to break the rules will use a fake registration.

    1. usbac

      Re: Disposable email address

      I'm a law abiding citizen, and a licensed pilot. I would still use a fake email and address. The reason: IT"S NONE OF DJI'S FUCKING BUSINESS!!!

      Simple as that!

  14. martinusher Silver badge

    Mandatory registration has just been struck down by the US courts

    The FAA tried to introduce registration that would balance the needs of managing drone use against the mandate to leave model aircraft alone. It seemed harmless but it still was the subject of a lawsuit which resulted in overturning of the requirement (...and the return of everyone's $5).

    I have mixed feelings about this. One one hand I don't like the bother of registering models that have never been of interest to the government before, on the other I do realize that irresponsible drone use threatens not only peoples' safety but also our entire hobby.

    I strongly dislike the notion of geofencing, BTW. Operators need to be responsible and geofencing can easily be abused by government.

  15. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    DJI is not the only supplier

    Easy to build tricopter, quadcopter, hexacopter, and octocopter kits are readily available and reasonably cheap, using generic controller boards running open-source firmware. Adding GPS and live video feed (FPV) is also simple and affordable. Even if you banned the kits, they are pretty easy to design - you can use all sorts of things for the frame https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTVOK2yvbBM

    Anyone serious about using a drone for a nefarious act is going to have a custom built device which cannot be geofenced, registered or traced. Moreover it can be programmed to fly a pre-defined flightpath, so there's not even the possibility of jamming the remote control signal. This particular genie is out of the bottle - in fact a lot of high-tech stuff that only well-funded military could previously afford is now available for prices easily within reach of criminals and small groups, and it's the sort of stuff that you cannot fight with aircraft carriers, $million fighter jets or platoons of riflemen. Or new laws.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    guess it's being returned

    As a sheeple with no clue how to register anything finding the camera not working... back to amazon it goes to be exchanged for coveralls.

  17. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    So registration will stop misuse? I don't think so . . .

    Sounds like DJI is working a scam, a fraud. They sell you a machine then feed you crippleware. And how will they detect false information supplied against their demands? There are many reasons why registration is unwise these days, given the insecurity of many databases.

    Hopefully some litigious American will hold DJI to account. Then, without doubt, some enterprising people will rework the software to render DJI crippleware ineffective.

    And how will DJI accommodate fast changing legislation, as occurred recently in the USA? Where I live there are hundreds of 'airfields', still shown on maps, originally built by the Americans during their war in VietNam?

    If all manufacturers adopted the short-sighted policies of DJI, vehicle drivers of all types would be crawling around at walking speed. Lawn movers wouldn't cut, knives would be blunted. Electricity would be limited to 48 volts. Then there are garage door openers and cell handsets - all used to trigger IEDs.

    TATP is the terrorists explosive de jour m the full name is triacetone triperoxide - very easily formulated at home with commonly available materials. Common household chemicals sold at supermarkets can easily be repurposed for alternative uses. And DJI attitudes expect to deny women of peroxide. Good luck with that.

    Owners should be expected to assume the responsibilities of ownership - not have them peremptorily imposed by the manufacturers trying to play Plod. Back to manufacturing DJI.

    1. thegroucho
      Joke

      Re: So registration will stop misuse? I don't think so . . .

      coffee machines will stop working, servants will go on a strike, etc.

      lighten up

  18. Randy Hudson

    Yet another reason to turn off auto-update on any iOS device

  19. Kinetic

    This is the least of the problems with drone ownership in this country (if you are bothered about doing things legally).

    So you can't fly:

    *) In a conjested area (so nowhere near anyone else's property). For most of us this then means not over our own property. It also rules out cool shots of towns/cities.

    *) You have to get a land owners permission before flying over it. Sure let me just lookup who owns this field and phone them...um yeah....

    *)How about those lovely national parks? The national trust banned drones.

    *) How about the forests? Forestly commission banned them (but they are considering their position)

    *) Beaches? May be legal as long as there are no other people on it.

    *)Obviously anything anywhere near any local or major airfields is absolutely out.

    There have been reports of some people getting permission to fly in council parks, but they did have to fill out health and safety assessments before each flight.....

    Basically if DJI were to implement this properly, it pretty much wouldn't let you take-off unless the owner of your current location logged into their portal and enabled your drone.

    I actually had a DJI Mavic on order before I started looking into where i could fly it legally. I cancelled it after i realised there's basically nowhere to fly that isn't a buttload of aggravation.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Having seen a friend's Mavic in action in Iceland I'd love one. They're awesome.

      But as you say, I checked where I could fly one in the UK and.. well, not even my back garden would be legal. Current laws may make a lot of sense from a public safety perspective but utterly destroy any point in owning a drone for non-commercial purposes.

  20. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    a hardware solution to a software problem

    you can make something doucheproof, but Nature will simply develop a better Douche.

    there are all sorts of things that can be misused by morons. Balloons, lawnchairs, for example.

    So you try to build in some sort of obedience, to engineer out the assholery.

    You will fail. All you do is p*ss off everyone, the douches AND the legit considerate owners.

    the outright assholes and evil people will simply buy/build/steal something else that's not affected.

    Interestingly enough is that many dangerous things are ignored by Media and the "Public Outcry" and the politicians. But drones, with cameras, and a hell of a potential to allow people to see things they "shouldn't" got even the most stagnant Government officials off their lardasses and acting on legislation in a ridiculously short time. Its almost like all this hype and people handwringing and stories of dangerous drones were conveniently promoted to make it appear the *public* was the one being protected....

    (where do I register my origami tinfoil?)

  21. jack2009

    In the United States, there are two sets of regulations governing launching and tracking high-altitude weather balloons. One is FCC the other is FAA.

    FAA rules State that you can fly no higher than 400 feet no farther than line of sight.

    In the China, Below 7 kg, limits fly 120 meters and 500 meters within the scope of visual.

    In terms of consumer drones, the maximum range is currently about 6 miles total. But the legal flying altitude for drones in most countries is 120 meters (400 feet).

    Reference source: http://www.rcdronegood.com/highest-quadcopter-flight-law-rules-limit/

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