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Restricting drone airspace with Geofencing
February 15, 2019 News

After a series of incidents involving drones at airports, including the recent incident at Gatwick Airport, London, drone maker DJI has upgraded its geofencing technology to ensure drones do not fly into restricted airspace like airports. The recently launched Geospatial Environment Online (GEO2.0) system across Europe brings 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. 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.

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. 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.

While there are no reports of DJI introducing geofencing to Asia or other parts of the world, it will be just a matter of time before the upgrades reaches the other regions as well.