New DJI Drone Firmware Will Prevent White House Joy Rides, Border Drug Runs

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Popular consumer drone-maker DJI is using firmware to fight some potential abuses of its hobbyist hardware, with an update that will prevent its Phantom 2-series drones from being able to fly onto the White House lawn, or carry drugs across country borders. This one’s after an unauthorized drone made its way to an ignominious end on the White House lawn earlier this week, and after a drone packed with meth crashed trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico last week.

The firmware update (via TheNextWeb) essentially just puts geographic restrictions in place that act as “no-fly zones,” adding a virtual barrier extending 25 kilometers from downtown D.C. in all directions and effectively blocking either take-off or even flying entry by a drone. National borders are included, too, to try to prevent DJI drones from being used for the kind of drug smuggling operation described above.

There are also 10,000 new airports added to the Phantom firmware’s no-fly list, which should prevent the consumer gadgets from getting in the way of air traffic and generally causing problems.

The primary concern of drone-makers and others invested in making autonomous vehicles a viable consumer and commercial business should be addressing these kinds of perceived threats as soon as they arise. Once drones are perceived as a credible threat to public safety, complete with examples people can point to back up their claims, it will be much harder to convince legislators to regulate in favor of broader use.