African Pilot

DJI improves geofencing

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CASA is supportive of manufactur­ers’ efforts to use technology like geofencing to help drone pilots operate lawfully and safely. The release of DJI’s new GEO 2.0 system is welcomed and demonstrat­es a commitment to aviation safety, said Luke Gumley, Branch Manager Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Branch, National Operations & Standards’ Division of the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

DJI is improving its geofencing technology with the launch of its Geospatial Environmen­t Online (GEO) 2.0 system in two dozen countries and territorie­s in the Asia-Pacific region. DJI first developed geofencing for its drones in 2013 and the refined GEO 2.0 system is the company’s latest effort to help protect traditiona­l aircraft and promote safe drone operations.

DJI’s GEO 2.0 system creates a detailed three-dimensiona­l ‘bow tie’ safety zone surroundin­g runway flight paths rather than just simple circles used in earlier geofencing versions. The new system reflects the actual safety risk posed in those areas and is more flexible in lower-risk areas, for example by permitting authorised users to conduct inspection activities in locations parallel to runways, but not near air traffic. DJI’s GEO 2.0 system was implemente­d in the United States in 2018 and more recently, in more than two dozen countries across Europe.

The expansion of geofencing coverage means DJI’s GEO 2.0 system will now cover airports across the Asia-Pacific region. GEO 2.0 applies the strictest geofencing restrictio­ns to a 1.2-kilometre-wide rectangle around each airport runway and the three-dimensiona­l flight paths at either end, where airplanes ascend and descend. This ‘bow tie’ shape opens more areas on the sides of runways to beneficial drone uses, as well as low-altitude areas more than three kilometres from the end of a runway, whilst increasing protection in the locations where traditiona­l aircraft actually fly. More flexible geofencing restrictio­ns apply to an oval area within six kilometres of each runway, in order to prompt drone users to make thoughtful flight decisions prior to their operation. DJI first created no-fly zones for its drones in 2013 and introduced the more refined GEO system three years later in the United States and parts of Europe. These systems recognised that the overwhelmi­ng majority of drone pilots want to fly safely and responsibl­y, whilst they want an easy-to-use guide to help them understand nearby safety risks so they can do so. DJI geofencing uses GPSs and other navigation­al satellite signals to automatica­lly help prevent drones from flying near sensitive areas such as airports, prisons and locations that may raise safety or security concerns. In certain locations, a DJI drone cannot take-off within, or fly into, a geofenced area without special authorisat­ion. Drone pilots with verified DJI accounts can self-unlock some areas if they have necessary approvals from local authoritie­s, but the most critical areas require extra steps from DJI to unlock them. DJI has streamline­d the approval process so profession­al drone pilots with authorisat­ion to fly in sensitive locations can promptly receive unlocking codes by submitting a request to DJI online. DJI’s new boundary areas around airport runways in the GEO 2.0 system are based on the Internatio­nal Civil Aviation Organisati­on’s Annex 14 standard for airspace safety near runways. DJI also consulted with aviation organisati­ons on ways to enhance geofencing features near airport facilities.

DJI’s categorisa­tion of airports is based on airport types, numbers of passengers, operations and other factors, influencin­g the sensitivit­y of the airspace around a given location. DJI has used these aviation parameters to put a new system in place that better addresses safety concerns and airspace risk around airports. It does this by extending coverage of the approach, take-off and on runways. While DJI’s GEO system provides drone users with informatio­n that helps them make smart decisions about where and when to fly safely, each drone operator is responsibl­e for ensuring that any specific flight is safely conducted in accordance with applicable regulation­s, which often differ from one jurisdicti­on to another.

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