Since Flight Restrictions (TFRs) in NJ are a regular occurrence these days I decided to test the DJI lock outs before I found myself at a client site and unable to work.
The main app I use when flying is Litchi. Litchi works with all of my DJI drones without having to pick a different app, providing a familiar interface. It also provides some features that just don’t exist in the Go apps. But, since I do use Go occasionally, I decided I would check DJI lock outs on those too.
|DJI Phantom P4 Professional
|DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
|DJI Go 3 (latest)
|DJI GO 4 (latest)
|Full Data (Wifi and cellular)
|Failed to start
|Could not manually start motors. Using auto take off I was informed I was near a no fly zone.
|Flight Allowed after self-authorization
|Initial attempt locked out. I self-authorized using the text method since I am actually ~100′ outside of the TFR. Normal flight operations after the authorization was approved.
|After self-authorizing in test #3 I switched back to Litchi. Normal flight was allowed. Note: I did not shut down the drone while switching apps.
|Allowed take off and then immediately auto landed
|I had no problems starting here but literally 5 seconds into the flight the auto land kicked in and it came down fast, missing a plant pot by inches! It would not start after that.
|Failed to start
|Switched to GO 3 after the auto landing but without shutting down the aircraft. I did not self-authorize although the option was provided.
|No problems taking off after restarting the phantom
Based on the above I started to wonder “Is it as simple as just putting the device into airplane mode before starting?”
I ran a quick test using DJI GO 4 and the OnePlus in airplane mode and…it worked! But then I tried without airplane mode and…it still worked, which probably means my self-authorization was still in effect. Obviously more testing is required.
Ultimately there are definitely scenarios that allow you to take off and fly even in a no-fly zone.
The best option is to use the unlock feature that DJI provides and which seems to work well as long as you are in an area with cell reception. For commercial pilots (Part 107 or 333 exempt) and educated users who know whether they have the authorization to fly this is a good thing. Unforuntately it is open to abuse by people that don’t know the rules and choose to just fly anyway. Maybe one day DJI will one day offer a blanket unlock that can be applied once proof of certification was provided and solve the problem of what to do in remote areas with no service.
I’ll continue to experiment with the unlock features as time allows. Future tests include how far outside the zone you have to be for the app to stop complaining and how long does an authorization last.
I would love to hear thoughts on tests you would like to see and the results of any of your experiments in the comments below!