DJI Improves Drone Geofencing for European Airports and Facilities

Published: 14 Feb 2019

Drone flying

DJI has announced that it is improving its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) geofencing technology with the launch of its Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) 2.0 system across Europe, bringing state-of-the-art geofencing to a total of 32 European countries.

GEO 2.0 creates detailed three-dimensional “bow tie” safety zones surrounding runway flight paths and uses complex polygon shapes around other sensitive facilities, rather than just simple circles used in earlier geofencing versions. This applies in the 13 countries covered by DJI’s original GEO system, as well as 19 new countries that did not previously have advanced geofencing. The new system better reflects the actual safety risk posed in those areas and is more flexible in lower-risk areas, for example by permitting authorized users to conduct drone activities in locations parallel to runways.

The revamp of DJI’s GEO system will also include Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) imposed during major events or natural disasters. The TFRs will be based on authoritative data from Eurocontrol.

DJI has chosen Altitude Angel as its new partner to deliver accurate, real-time and relevant geospatial data for airports, TFRs and other sensitive areas in 32 European countries. In Europe, Altitude Angel replaces DJI’s previous geospatial data provider AirMap. DJI worked together with Altitude Angel last year in Operation Zenith, a full-scale test at Manchester Airport of its GuardianUTM O/S platform for unmanned traffic management in controlled airspace.

“DJI is eager to ensure that safety remains the top priority as the European drone industry innovates new ways to use drones in exciting and productive ways. Introducing state-of-the-art safety features in even more countries will help the general public and drone operators alike,” said Christian Struwe, DJI’s Head of Policy, EMEA. “European airspace management must accommodate advanced future operations, such as automated flight and flight beyond the operator’s line of sight, without imposing new burdens on recreational and professional drone pilots who have completed millions of safe and beneficial flights. Altitude Angel supports this vision and supplies the reliable airspace data needed to implement it.”

Richard Parker, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Altitude Angel, said, “We are honored to partner with DJI on this important update to GEO and look forward to working closely on other important projects. We work hard to deliver the best data and drone services to our customers globally, and we welcome DJI’s recognition of the value in our Guardian platform to enable their customers to fly safely and access more airspace.”

GEO 2.0 in Europe will be phased in with updates to the DJI GO 4 flight control app and aircraft firmware. DJI encourages authorities and drone users to share feedback on the existing zones to improve the GEO experience for customers and maintain the safety and security of drone operations.

DJI first created No-Fly Zones for its drones in 2013 and introduced the more refined GEO system three years later, adding live updates and new zones for prisons and nuclear power plants, while providing flexible self-unlocking for professionals. Both systems recognized that the overwhelming majority of drone pilots want to fly safely and responsibly, and want an easy-to-use guide to help them understand the airspace so they can do so.

DJI geofencing uses GPS and other navigational satellite signals to automatically help prevent drones from flying near sensitive locations such as airports, prisons, nuclear power plants and high-profile events. 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 unlock some areas if they have legitimate reasons and necessary approvals, 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 receive unlocking codes within 30 minutes by submitting a request online.

The expansion of European coverage means that DJI’s most advanced geofencing system, GEO 2.0, will now be available in 19 more countries than the original GEO system launched in 2016. The new countries are: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden. These are added to the existing 13 GEO countries which will also be upgraded to GEO 2.0: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

GEO 2.0 applies the strictest geofencing restrictions to a 1.2 kilometer (3/4 mile) wide rectangle around each runway and the three-dimensional flight paths at either end, where airplanes ascend and descend. More flexible geofencing restrictions apply to an oval area within 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) of each runway. This bow tie shape opens more areas on the sides of runways to beneficial drone uses, as well as low-altitude areas more than 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the end of a runway, while increasing protection in the locations where traditional aircraft actually fly.

DJI’s new boundary areas around airport runways are based on the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Annex 14 standard for airspace safety near runways. DJI also consulted with aviation organizations 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.

Using these aviation parameters, DJI has aligned its geofencing safety feature to broader understandings of airspace and airport risk, in a way that can be deployed in its drones worldwide, regardless of the aviation regulations that are in place, and that are still in the process of development, in many countries.

Posted by Mike Ball Mike is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passions for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years.