The good news: you no longer have to register your little DJI Phantom or Mavic with the FAA. The bad news: DJI still needs you to register it with them… or else.
On Saturday, we told you about a federal court ruling that reversed some FAA rules—namely: if you’re not flying your drone commercially, you no longer have to register it with the authorities. But no sooner had that news made the rounds than DJI announced they’d take some of the regulatory burden off the government and into its own hands.
The company is about to launch a new “application activation process” that will require DJI users to go online and activate their latest firmware update to ensure you’re using “the correct set of geospatial information and flight functions for your aircraft, as determined by your geographical location and user profile.” If you don’t do this, DJI will seriously throttle your drone by cutting off live camera streaming and limiting your drone flights to a 50 meter (~164 foot) radius and 30 meter (~98 foot) altitude.
If your DJI uses the latest firmware, or if you’re using any future versions of the DJI GO or GO 4 apps, these rules apply to you.
The ‘application activation process’ is meant to keep DJI owners from doing stupid or illegal things with their new drone, and probably save DJI some legal liability in the process. Once updated and activated, DJI can make sure that you never accidentally (or purposely) fly into controlled airspace… or into the space needle… or nearly hit some baseball fans in the face (more on that in a few minutes).
The activation process is scheduled to go live “at the end of this week.” To learn more about how (or why) to update, read the official DJI announcement here.