You Don't Own What You Bought: Drone Maker Updates Firmware On All Drones To Stop Any Flights In DC

from the well-that's-not-very-nice dept

You may have heard the news recently about how a drunk employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (can't make this crap up) accidentally flew a DJI Phantom II drone onto White House property, leading to a general collective freakout over the security implications of these personal helicopters. In response to this, President Obama has called for more drone regulations -- which may or may not make sense -- but it needs to be remembered that the FAA has been refusing to actually release any rules for quite some time.

But beyond the call for regulations, the drone's maker, DJI has decided to do a little self-regulation in the form of automatically pushing out some new firmware that blocks the drone from flying in downtown DC:
"The updated firmware (V3.10) will be released in coming days and adds a No-Fly Zone centered on downtown Washington, DC and extends for a 25 kilometer (15.5 mile) radius in all directions. Phantom pilots in this area will not be able to take off from or fly into this airspace."
Even if you think it's perfectly reasonable to ban drone flights in downtown DC (a different discussion for a different day...), it should be very concerning that the company you bought your product from can magically make it that much less useful on demand without you being able to do a damn thing about it. What if you happen to live in that no-fly zone, and you bought it to use for personal reasons at a local park. You're completely out of luck because an overreaction resulted in the company breaking something you thought you bought.

Sometimes, the fact that devices you buy can be updated on the fly has benefits -- like the stories of Tesla upgrading its cars to make them better even long after people bought them. That's neat. But, it still seems immensely troubling that something you bought can be turned into a paperweight (in certain areas) by the company you bought it from.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:19am

    Considering most other types of aircraft are banned in DC, it's not really that surprising.

    Though why the U.S. needs to deputize private companies to enforce laws is beyond me.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:50am

      Re:

      fyi:
      The term "aircraft" includes helium filled party balloons.

      That's a lot party pooper!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:58am

      Re:

      The problem is:
      You are clinging on a roof, out of plain view, in a flooded area, and no drones can fly around to find you, have a nice death.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:08am

      Re:

      This isn't "banned in DC". This is "banned" in Washington D.C., Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Falls Church, the City of Takoma Park, the City of Greenbelt, and large portions of Fairfax County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County, and the City of Rockville.

      I say "banned" because no one has banned it, the manufacturer is just planning on crippling the drone in an arbitrary area.

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      • identicon
        annoyed in VA, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:41am

        Re: Re:

        Came here to say that. Even worse, the article keeps focusing on "downtown DC", which misleads people into thinking, "Well, yeah, that's reasonable..." Even for those who think that, what DJI is doing should be seen as a mind-bogglingly ridiculous over-reaction.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Indeed, the "downtown DC" part is incredibly misleading.

          To give even more perspective, it's approximately 40.1 miles from DC to Baltimore. So this manufacturer instigated no fly zone of 15.5 miles, extends more than a third of the way to Baltimore (~38.65% of the way). Washington DC has an area of 68.3 square miles (177 km²). This "no fly zone" has an area of 755 square miles (1955 km²). The state of Rhode Island has an area of 1,212 square miles (3,140 km²).

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:56am

      Re:

      They get the laws they want passed implemented thru the back door. Deputizing private companies to limit our rights is the perfect way to do it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 4:33pm

      Re:

      so, if it makes so much sense for drones, by *YOUR* 'logic', that should go a hundred times over for 'real' aircraft, which have an infinitely bigger potential impact than a couple pound drone...

      and liberty dies from a thousand cuts...

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:19am

    I think it's fine to program technology so it can't violate no fly zones for the safety of everyone involved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:31am

      Re:

      I think it's fine to program technology so it can't violate no fly zones for the safety of everyone involved.

      "It seems you want to fly your Boeing 747 into a no fly zone, this airplane can't allow this, Dave".

      First think about the implications (in case of emergencies, for instance) something can have before making such stupid statements.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:32am

      Re:

      From my view, the issue isn't whether or not it's fine for the company to build in "no-fly zones". It's whether or not a company should eliminate functionality that it has previously sold to you.

      That's a kind of fraud in my view.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 30 Jan 2015 @ 1:25am

      Re:

      "I think it's fine to program technology so it can't violate no fly zones for the safety of everyone involved"

      So do most other people. Which is why the article says "a different discussion for a different day" while it's actually addressing the slipshod manner in which it was programmed and the way in which it was applied.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rabbit80 (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:28am

    Better than the alternative..

    Which, given the current level of paranoia, could lead to a total ban of drones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:51am

      Re: Better than the alternative..

      Except the one targeting your ass.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:35am

      Re: Better than the alternative..

      And it opens space for jailbreaking it. Cue custom firmwares being released in 3, 2, 1...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Chosen Reject (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 10:45am

        Re: Re: Better than the alternative..

        You don't need to jailbreak it. There are all sorts of flight controllers (even open source ones) that are available. You simply replace it.

        My understanding is that this is not the first time DJI has added a no-fly zone in its flight controller. You also can't fly over the forbidden city with the Naza flight controller (by DJI). In fact, they have a whole list of no fly-zones preprogrammed into their FCs:

        http://www.dji.com/fly-safe/category-mc

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 10:28am

      Re: Better than the alternative..

      I think good practices should still be observed, like operating inside your own property or a public space for safety (malfuntion), and privacy(camera) reasons.......no flying over folks densley packed together, or over many densley packed properties and such for the same reasons

      Now, over, near, or right on top of any part of a secret orientated government facility......thats a gray area i.e. dont hide things from your nation

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  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:28am

    Restricted or no-fly zones in aviation usually do not have a "radius", but have rather complicated shapes. And they're not two-dimensional either, they have a specific from/to height.

    Plus you can usually enter restricted airspace if you announce your position, height and target by radio. The tower might give you further instructions on course and flight-level you need to keep.

    So compared to what's usual in aviation, this "self-regulation" of course allows you to do much less.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:41am

    So given they have essentially turned every single drone they've sold in that area into a nice, extremely expensive paperweight, I would hope that alongside the firmware 'update' they'll be offering full refunds to anyone who bought from them, at any time, and lives in the affected area.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:47am

    Notice how the politicians want to prevent toy drones from annoying them, them, while using real drone to kill real people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mcinsand, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:47am

    what will happen with driverless cars?

    I can only imagine what might happen with driverless cars, if this lays any sort of a legal framework. However, as our devices and appliances become more connected, there are opportunities. I would like the ability to set my phone to automatically go silent in some geographic locations...I just don't want someone else managing those settings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:59am

      Re: what will happen with driverless cars?

      Porsche, Ferrari, BMW autos already detect the GPS location of every racing track around the world, so as to void their warranties.

      It would be trivial to add this technology to every car, with additional locations to be determined by unelected bureaucrats.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:09am

        Re: Re: what will happen with driverless cars?

        What happens if you *visit* a race track as a spectator? This seems like a common thing for sports car owners. Some tracks even have parking in the infield.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:00am

        Re: Re: what will happen with driverless cars?

        Porsche, Ferrari, BMW autos already detect the GPS location of every racing track around the world, so as to void their warranties.

        I would love a citation on that. The Nissan GT-R detects racetracks with GPS to turn off the speed governor.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 1:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: what will happen with driverless cars?

          "I would love a citation on that."

          Direct from a Ferrari service mechanic while working on a Ferrari in the shop. He showed me the PC software as it was querying the car being serviced.

          No -- I don't have a Ferrari myself.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 1:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: what will happen with driverless cars?

            I can see Ferrari pulling something like that. It's ironic since their reputation is built on race cars and high performance sports cars suitable for track use. Hopefully the sales staff clearly explain that the warranty is voided by getting too close to a race track. Yeah, right.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          JMT (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 4:29pm

          Re: Re: Re: what will happen with driverless cars?

          "The Nissan GT-R detects racetracks with GPS to turn off the speed governor."

          ...AND void your warranty.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 4:53pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: what will happen with driverless cars?

            ...AND void your warranty.

            That would be about the dumbest thing ever. :-) That feature is only in Japan though, where the speed limiter is set at 111 mph.

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  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:53am

    The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

    Whenever there's an icy road conditions warning, cars equipped with OnStar could use GPS coordinates to deactivate themselves in mountainous or hilly areas.

    This could likely be done on existing cars by pushing out a firmware update, at the behest of the auto maker's legal team.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:18am

      Re: The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

      And this could be defeated as well by finding the GPS receiver and covering it with tinfoil. Problem solved.

      You could also go into your car's fuse box and yank out the fuse that goes to Onstar's GPS receiver. Problem solved.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:33am

        Re: Re: The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

        Also, if all else fails, it's trivially easy to jam GPS signals.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:40am

          Re: Re: Re: The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

          The trouble the US government is cracking down on jammers, so other ways to defeat GPS need to be found.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

            A very low power jammer placed next to the GPS antenna is very effective and almost impossible to detect from any sort of distance. It certainly would not interfere with other GPS receivers that might be nearby, and complaints from people who are getting such interference are the main way that jammers get caught.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:43am

          Re: Re: Re: The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

          I would not be surprised of TPP ends up with an item about GPS jammers, being that such jammers are legal in some TPP countries. Don't be surprised of the USTR pushes for a requirement that TPP member nations outlaw GPS jammers.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:01am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

            These jammers are already illegal in the US.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:24pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

              They are illegal in the U.S., true, but in some other TPP countries, it is not. They are illegal in Australia, Canada, and the U.S., but not in any of the other TPP countries, which is I would not be surprised if TPP ends up including an item about GPS jammers, especially if China ever joins TPP, since nearly all the world's GPS jammers are made in China.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:17am

        Re: Re: The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

        Well sure. But most consumers won't do this.

        As for those who do, by applying tinfoil or yanking the fuse, they absolve the manufacturer of legal liability. Which is the whole point of the auto-disable feature (for both drones and cars) to begin with.

        It's a feature that *isn't* defeated by yanking the fuse.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:25am

      Re: The slippery slope possibilities are endless!

      Ehow has instructions on how to disable Onstar's GPS, if you do not want to be tracked

      http://www.ehow.com/how_7544152_disable-onstar-gps-tracking.html

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:15am

    It looks like they are using GPS. Easily defeated by finding the GPS receiver and puttin some tinfoil over it, problem solved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:17am

    So no DJI for me

    So more open source drones built from parts might be the way to go from now on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      jackn, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:40am

      Re: So no DJI for me

      Yes, and I am sure this drone is based on atmega or simular. It would so easy to write your own 'firmware.'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:30am

    This is why

    This sort of thing is exactly why I do not allow anything I own to automatically update, ever. If I can't block automatic updates, then I do not buy the product. I also don't manually trigger updates to anything until the update has been in the wild for a while and I can see reports from others as to what effects the update has had.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:40am

      Re: This is why

      Up until there won't be alternatives without auto-update feature always on. The industry is simply delighted with this newfound ability to meddle with your property long after you bought it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        beltorak (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:52am

        Re: Re: This is why

        Open source hardware, open source firmware, open source software. We are making strides in open source hardware. The other two are much easier to obtain.

        Automatic updates should be a *feature*, not a manacle.

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      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:04am

        Re: Re: This is why

        Fortunately, auto-updating capability requires the ability to communicate. It will always be possible to stop that communication one way or another, so stopping auto-updating for things that don't require communication to do their job will always be possible. It's trickier for things that do require communications, but not impossible.

        However, that's a long way off. For now, it's pretty simple to just avoid products that you can't stop from auto-updating.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:16am

          Re: Re: Re: This is why

          Open source stuff like bel said is a possibility.

          so stopping auto-updating for things that don't require communication to do their job will always be possible. It's trickier for things that do require communications, but not impossible.

          The device doesn't run if you don't connect and update. Always on wi-fi that uses unsecured network for the update should do the trick. Etc. Things can get pretty bad for the non-tech-savvy. But I agree with you, so far it's not impossible.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This is why

            "The device doesn't run if you don't connect and update."

            I have encountered this sort of thing before, and the solution is to run your own service that mimics the one it's trying to connect to.

            "Things can get pretty bad for the non-tech-savvy"

            Absolutely true. In fact, things are already pretty bad for the non-tech-savvy. But all it takes is a small number of tech-savvy people to put together a mitigation kit that can be used by everyone else.

            I'm not claiming that any of the mitigation avenues are easy or convenient, just that they're possible. I'm thinking of the worst-case future where we don't stop this sort of insanity. At least we can provide ways to mitigate the problem for people who are sufficiently motivated to do so.

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    • icon
      Tony Loro (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 12:10pm

      Re: This is why

      Nothing in the UAV hobby is automatic...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:33am

    Drone positioning relies on GPS

    So what happens when someone overrides the GPS signal?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:41am

    I wonder...

    ...if the hacking community will get any ideas from this?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:42am

    "more drone regulations"

    So let me get this straight. A drunk government employee does something stupid with drones and the solution is to pass more regulations against drones in opposed to doing more to prevent government employees from getting drunk and doing something stupid? I think the real concern here is who hired this guy and how did he get his job? Obama should be more concerned about the screening process for government employees. When the government needs to pass anti-drone laws that affect everyone to protect government from itself and its own employees something is wrong here. The only problem/threat here isn't the public it's the government and the public shouldn't be forced to bear the burden or more dumb laws just because its own employees keep doing stupid things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:53am

      Re:

      (but all this government stupidity where government employees keep getting caught doing stupid things, such as this and the ATF getting looted, is a symptom of a hiring process based on nepotism/kinship, who knows whom and who is friends with whom, and racism and not one based on merit. The whole government has essentially turned into its own gang with its own code of honor composed of drunks and criminals that pretend to serve the public. In all likelihood this problems with drunk government employees is endemic but it's only when one of them does something stupid that they ever get caught).

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:58am

      Re:

      Its almost as if this was just a wonderful coincidence that it happened and will now cause peoples freedoms to be limited.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        beltorak (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:56am

        Re: Re:

        which leads me to wonder (with my tinfoil hat firmly strapped on) if this employee "volunteered" to be the sacrificial goat in a deliberate plot to take away our freedoms....

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 11:28am

        Re: Re:

        The funny thing is if it turned out to be a normal citizen responsible for this they would penalize him heavily and make his life miserable. but because it was a drunk government employee they kept his identity secret and probably only gave him a slap on the wrist.

        Regular citizen breaks law = huge problem

        Drunk government employee breaks law = no problem

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ned Ludd, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:57am

    The New DRM

    Hey, its Drone Rights Management!

    It would be so much more customer friendly if they just programmed the controller to give the user a big loud warning that they were flying in a potentially restricted area and then let the user decide.

    The more we lock stuff down and take human judgment out of the loop, the more opportunity for unintended consequences to bite us in the ass.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:57am

    It will be sad the first time a child goes missing and the only drone that could be used to find the kid is gps locked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      beltorak (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:57am

      Re:

      this is only done in consumer firmware. LEOs will have an override. you can count on it.

      so a government employee fucks up and everyone else get screwed twice because of it.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:58am

    it should be very concerning that the company you bought your product from can magically make it that much less useful on demand without you being able to do a damn thing about it. "

    This is not something new , many many, companies do this, on various platforms with the user having no say in the matter

    And yes it is wrong, it will be abused........theres nothing technical that says that this is needed for a product/srrvice to function, it is something that is willfully added ontop of an already working product.........

    not given the choice to refuse if you so choose is one issue, refusing because an update is not in the best interest of the buyer is a seperate matter

    For security/privacy for the user, an update process, this i can accept, but you still have to give the choice, either a permanent on/off switch, or on the fly allow/deny when an update appears.......not a backdoor into products that occupy the homes of users.......a product once bought should be isolated from its producers unless the user specifically gives consent through the above examples

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  • identicon
    Dave Xanatos, 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:12am

    Indoors?

    So people wanting to fly indoors are screwed, too? And yes, there are probably buildings within the radius that you can comfortably fly a drone in.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:35am

    Drunks... pissing off society since, well... ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tim Edwards (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:39am

    Does nothing for Security.

    This is an arbitrary move by a vendor to put on a show for the politicians. Building in a GPS enforced No Fly Zone will not stop someone that wants to fly a package of contraband from one place to another. Open the body of the "drone" and simply unplug the gps receiver. Then you are free to fly line of sight to wherever you want. The gps only helps with automated flights and a few gee whiz features, but doesnt prevent manual control of the system by the pilot. Worst case, you will have to reinitialize the gps outside the no fly zone so the controller thinks you are somewhere else before you can disable the gps.

    Or you can roll your own - arguably MUCH BETTER - multirotor and not deal with DJI at all (which includes the standalone versions of the Naza flight Controller).

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  • identicon
    bob, 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:43am

    Obama not a customer

    I guess neither Obama not Biden will be getting this model as a gift for their kids. :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jake, 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:48am

    Point of clarification. Aren't there already a number of clear and specific FAA regulations on remote-controlled aircraft in the vicinity of airfields and/or built-up areas? I reckon an R/C helicopter with a camera stuck on it is still an R/C helicopter, no matter what the three-letter agencies might think.

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    • icon
      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 2:24pm

      Re:

      Yes, but they don't limit the no-fly zones to 15 miles around DC. I'm fairly sure it's a violation to fly over the White House. I'm fairly sure it's not a violation to fly 15 miles away from the White House.

      Plus, it's not DJI's place to set these limitations. It's the FAA's place.

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  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:04am

    Politicians and Common Peasants

    Listen, you all need to think of the children. What else are they going to play with... Paper airplanes. Blah.

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  • icon
    gorehound (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:19am

    The one and only connection I have online is thru a landlocked, VPN'd Home built computer.
    Fuck buying anything that makes you connect to the NET.Of course the Corporations will screw with your possession which you bought legally.
    And if you do want to update...............DON'T !
    Use google and see what the update does before allowing your possession to update.If the update is shit then why install it ?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:48am

    DJI "Please reverse our Firmware" is all I read?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 10:28am

    But Sony Does it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 11:32am

    Is There Clarity About The Update's Contents?

    Mike,

    As a DJI flyer, it seems to me the following two questions are very important:

    1) Is DJI being very clear about the reduced functionality the update will bring PRIOR to customers accepting the update?

    2) Is there an option to NOT take the update, and continue flying in Grandfathered mode for all eternity? This would preclude opt-outers from improvements, too, but the functionality they bought would still exist.

    If this kind of update is done with YES answers to the two questions above, then it satisfies your requirements about retaining the functions of the products you own. Sadly, my guess is that the answer to 1, at least, will be no.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 11:34am

      Re: Is There Clarity About The Update's Contents?

      BTW, as of August 2014, I store my DJI phantom at the bottom of Lake Muskoka. Thus, it is protected from future crashes and DC Beltway fly-overs.

      Good as they are, these Phantoms have a recurring "fly away" problem.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 11:36am

      Re: Is There Clarity About The Update's Contents?

      Last thought:

      You could still fly your DJI Phantom around DC. The device uses GPS to improve flight stability and navigation. But it can also be flown in manual modes if GPS satellites are not detected.

      So...make a tinfoil hat for your Phantom, blocking the view of the sky, and the Quad will never know that it is in the DC no-fly zone, and will happily fly in manual mode, which simply takes more skill from the pilot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 11:38am

    So... one little RC quadcopter crashes into the White House and the government reacts in knee-jerk fashion. They threaten to regulate and the copter's manufacturer likewise reacts in knee-jerk fashion by adopting this ridiculous GPS scheme.

    Emotional responses make for bad policy. I hope at least that "solutions" like this GPS blocking won't be adopted as law.

    And can we please stop calling them drones and start calling them RC aircraft? "Drone" is a name intended to frighten people into thinking they're something more serious than they truly are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lostalaska (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 12:06pm

    Different application, same old cr@p...DRM

    I used to work at a school district doing IT across multiple schools. We had a couple new copiers I had installed over the summer in the staff media room. Within the first couple of days of the school year the machines were giving an error code and wouldn't print or scan, even after turning them off and on again they would still show the code and not allow any of it's functions to work. A staff member had called the company (there was a sticker on the machine with the local business's phone number) and the company had already been out 3 times and was now saying they were going to charge a $100 a pop to come out and "fix" the machine. This was when I was finally informed of the issue. I went out to the school wrote down the code and looked it up via google. The first few pages of results had similar stories and basically the code that locked down the copier was because a teacher had been scanning dollar bills with their face taped to the middle of it for some class activity which teachers have done since they had access to copy machines. Now the machines saw the dollar bill and considered it potential counterfitting attempt and would lock the machine down until a tech would show up and clear the code with PIN number. Luckily one of the posts I found while searching through google also had the clear code (PIN) posted. So I just wrote up a quick explanation with the clear PIN and taped it to the wall behind the copier. Thanks DRM, because I'm sure that crappy 300dpi black and white copy machine has the potential to crank out real looking currency that has been scanned into it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 12:24pm

      Re: Different application, same old cr@p...DRM

      How clever. They made their copiers susceptible to Denial of Service attacks by third parties. ... On a second thought, most of DRM does.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        beltorak (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 3:54pm

        Re: Re: Different application, same old cr@p...DRM

        That is the very nature and design of DRM. It is the raison d'être. To deny the service of something at someone else's whim.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 12:35pm

    Freedom of the press issue here?

    It would appear that anyone reporting on a news story in the DC area now cannot use one of their reporting tools.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 12:36pm

    I don't get it. Obama never seemed to have a problem with drones up until a few days ago. I guess so long as drones are being used in other people's back yards, he's OK with them. What a hypocrite!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 12:53pm

    In other news, the Chinese want backdoors

    in all the drones, so that the DJI White House GPS blacklist can be removed under their command.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 12:58pm

    Perhaps Congress should require that US military drones

    also have a GPS blacklist that ringfences the White House, the Capitol, etc.

    Wouldn't everyone sleep better knowing that these military drones couldn't be mistakenly used on them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike (not that Mike, the other Mike), 29 Jan 2015 @ 2:34pm

    So....if it enters a no fly zone does it just...umm...fall like a rock.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John, 29 Jan 2015 @ 3:17pm

    Craiglist flooded with DJI for sale

    The terrorists have been thwarted again. The no-fly zone has blocked their plans so they have given up and sold their drones. Of course they wont try with another drone maker or disable the no fly feature. DC and surrounding areas are safe.

    If you want a no fly zone why not prevent the drones from going into the high value target areas but still allow them to be flown in the local park? GPS is accurate enough to do this.

    DJI must be admitting that its common for their users to lose contact with their drones which will continue on their last instructed heading. The 25 mile limit allows sufficient time for the out of control drones to run out of battery.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 5:15pm

    Nice way to give business to your competitors

    I can see the press release now:
    DJI: We ban your drone from flying in Washington.
    Every DJI competitor: We don't.

    Hmm... I wonder which company is going to see more business and income?

    And even then, why is it the drone maker's responsibility to force their users to be responsible? It's like a car maker saying you can't drive the car into a certain area. We can debate whether this is for "safety" or "security", but the fact is that people should be able to make decisions like this on their own: if you want to fly a drone into the White House, go right ahead... but be prepared when you're arrested by the Secret Service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 5:38pm

    I don't live in DC

    I live a couple miles outside the Capital Beltway and haven't even been to DC in a few years. This isn't a big (dense) city, I'm in a suburban area with my own land. Why should we get punished way out here? Personal drones don't have enough battery power to fly that far.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Control, 29 Jan 2015 @ 11:27pm

    It is DRM all over again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim Strathmeyer, 30 Jan 2015 @ 7:04pm

    inside?

    Will they even be rendered inoperable inside buildings?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2015 @ 11:00pm

      Re: inside?

      Yes, they'll be rendered inoperable even inside buildings. This is a GPS based restriction as to where flight is allowed, and GPS alone doesn't really have a means of determining you're inside a building.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lordkoos, 31 Jan 2015 @ 11:31am

    Just wait

    They can do the same thing with your car, if it's a newer model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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