Most aerial photographers and remote pilots out there currently use DJI drones, and those who do often experience massive frustration around DJI’s geofencing that prevents users from flying in certain airspace – unless they’ve unlocked their drone.
We’re here to help. We’ll cover how you can determine whether your flight takes place in a geofenced area, the two different types of DJI geofencing, and the steps needed to unlock both of them.
To determine whether or not your flight takes place in a geofenced zone, head over to DJI’s Fly Safe Geo Zone Map. For this example, we’ll head to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA and zoom out. Make sure to check off the “Warning Zones” and “Enhanced Warning Zones” boxes right beneath the map to make sure you get a comprehensive perspective of all geofencing information in your search.
Next, we’ll break down what the individual zones mean:
Restricted Zones (Red): In these zones, users will be prompted in the DJI Go App with a warning and flight is prevented. If you have authorization to fly in these restricted zones, you can do so through a Custom Unlock, which we’ll cover in this guide, or you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org (we’d recommend the custom unlock).
Altitude Zones (Gray): In these zones, users receive warnings in the DJI Go App, and flight altitude is limited. These are usually found near airport runways, and their restrictions cannot be turned off.
Authorization Zones (Blue): In these zones, users will be prompted with a warning in the DJI Go App, and flight is limited by default. However, these zones can be self-unlocked by an authorized user using a DJI-verified account, which we’ll cover how to do in this guide.
Warning Zones (Yellow): In these zones, users will be prompted with a warning message due to potential danger, but they shouldn’t require any unlocking.
Enhanced Warning Zones (Orange): In these zones, users will be prompted by GEO at the time of the flight to unlock the zone using the self-unlock (like Authorization Zones), only you do not have to have a DJI-verified account or an internet connection at the time of your flight to do-so. You just have to confirm that you want to continue flying.
Now, let’s cover how to custom unlock the red zones, and self-unlock the blue zones.
It’s important to make sure you’ve already gone through the steps to receive airspace authorization that we described earlier in this article before you start this process. Why? Because Custom unlocks require proof of authorization, and can only be requested through DJI’s website. Additionally, make sure you request your Custom Unlock before you go out for your flight operation – these can take anywhere from one hour over a day for approval. If you’re coming up on a deadline and have been waiting for quite a while, you can always email email@example.com to check on the status of your request.
First, navigate to the DJI’s Custom Unlock webpage and log into your DJI account (create an account if you haven’t already). Click the Custom Unlocking section of the screen, and read the information below before clicking the “Unlocking Requests” button.
The next page will require that you submit some basic information. Other than waiting for approval, this is the most time-intensive part of the custom unlocking process.
If you were thrown off by the “flight controller serial number” and weren’t sure where to find it, here’s how it’s done:
- Connect to the DJI Go 4 App with the controller and your drone
- In the upper right corner, click the General Settings button (three dots)
- Scroll to the bottom, click “About”, and you’ll be able to view your serial number.
On the next page, select the model of drone that will be used for the operation from the drop-down menu, and enter the address of the flight location that you’ll be flying at in the search bar of the Geo Map.
Here’s where the colors come back into play; click the red pin covering the zone that you would like to unlock. Does the color red ring a bell? It should, because that corresponds to the Restricted Zone that we need to use the Custom Unlock in order to fly in.
Next, enter the proposed flight radius, altitude, and the name of the unlocking zone on the right side of the Geo Map.
After reviewing all of the information, click “Confirm”, agree to the terms & conditions, and click “Agree.”
Congrats! You’ve now submitted your Custom Unlock request to DJI. At this point it’s just a waiting game – and remember, if you feel you’ve been waiting too long, you can always email firstname.lastname@example.org for a status report.
According to the DJI website, there are two ways to self-unlock the Authorization Zones (blue zones):
- Live Self-Unlocking
When connected to the internet, the DJI Go app should allow you to unlock Authorization Zones on-site when you take off inside of, or fly into one. Your unlocked status lasts a full 24 hours. You just need to confirm your authorization to fly and verify your identity using your phone. After that, you’re ready to fly.
- Scheduled Self-Unlocking
As the name might suggest, this method of self-unlocking allows you to plan your unlocking in-advance of your flight. This is particularly useful when you intend on flying in an Authorization Zone that doesn’t have internet connectivity. Each unlocked zone will remain unlocked for three days.
For the scheduled self-unlocking, just go to the DJI’s self-unlock page and log into your DJI account. Next, select your drone model from the drop-down menu, and enter the address where you intend on flying into the Geo Map.
Click the blue pin that covers the zone that you’d like to unlock, and enter your flight controller serial number (we described how to do this in the custom unlock section).
Choose the date for your flight, submit your request, and agree to the terms and conditions. Next, you’ll need to use either your phone number or credit card number that’s associated with your DJI account in order to verify your identity. Once you receive a “Verification Complete”, you can then click “Proceed.”
Once you’ve finished all of the steps detailed above, there’s one last step you’ll need to take:
- Go to Camera View
- Select “General Settings”
- Select “Unlocking List” in the DJI Go or DJI Go 4 app to confirm that your flight license has been downloaded.
This last step is really important to do before you arrive at your flight location since you need an internet connection.
By familiarizing yourself with these steps, you’ve put yourself in a far better position to show up on your scheduled flight day, ready to fly! As you might have guessed, it’s all a lot easier once you’ve gone through it once or twice, and it’s always helpful to take care of everything before you actually arrive at your flight location.
Take care of what you can at home, and everything should go seamlessly on the day of your flight!
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