DJI offers a fairly simple process to gain access to flying in areas they have previously marked as NFZ (no fly zones) within their software. Keep in mind the process, though straightforward, will take some time for exchange of emails etc. I would advise to begin the process at a minimum 1 week before your intended fly date, preferably longer.
We love DJI drones! They are phenomenal machines and are extremely reliable. But that does not mean we are not without complaints. We always encourage legal safe operations, wether it be for hobby or commercial use. Unfortunately DJI has instituted no fly zones in their software that do not correspond to any legal airspace rules within the United States. This leads to two problems. Those unfamiliar with the real rules and regulations see the red (or green and yellow) no fly zones and think that they can legally fly anywhere not in a red zone. This is not the case, often DJI’s permanent NFZ’s barely extend to the end of the runway of an airport. This does not protect aircraft in the pattern around airports. And it leads to an uninformed public flying drones where they shouldn’t be because “it wasn’t red”. In reality when conducting hobby flights any time you are flying within 5 miles of an airport you need to first notify the airport tower or manager of your flight. After that point you are legal to fly.
Secondly legal operators conducting flights under 107 or 333 are allowed to fly in any uncontrolled airspace including on or near class G airports without contacting anyone beforehand. These operators are also allowed to fly within controlled airspace after first requesting authorization from the FAA’s online portal.
DJI’s permanent (red) no fly zones interfere with people wishing to legally operate their aircraft for both hobby and commercial use. So now lets get on to how we solve that problem!
To begin the process you will need to request to have a NFZ removed by DJI. To do this send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting for NFZ removal. It just needs to be a simple email request. DJI will respond within a few business days and they will send you a few documents along with a list of information they will need from you.
You will need to print out the two documents they send you and sign them.
After signing these documents you will also need the following.
1. A written document that you are legally allowed to fly in the intended area.
2. A form of identification of the person signing the document.
A simple document explaining why your flights are legal will satisfy #1. You’re flight should obviously be legal so this is a fairly easy document to write. We generally just restate the rules for Part 107 or 101 from the FAA. For #2 you alone need to sign the document and provide your ID. It does not have to be signed by the FAA or an airport employee or anything and does not require ID from anyone other than yourself.
Once you have all of the documents together attach them to an email but don’t send it off yet! There are a few more things you need to include. You’ll need your flight controller serial number. The longitude and latitude and radius of the area you want to unlock. The time frame you want to have the area unlocked. And your DJI ID email address.
You can find your drone flight controller serial in your go app “about” section. Your unlock location can be found using google maps and right clicking on a point and selecting “whats here”. You can then estimate a radius from your center point. For the unlock timeframe, we have had success for getting airspace unlocked for up to 1 year.
Once you have included all this information in your email you should send it off to DJI. Within a few business days you will get an email back containing your unlock location and radius and timeframe. You will also get a link to a custom DJI app that you will need to use to fly, if you are familiar with the Go app nothing much will surprise you in this custom app.
After this point you will essentially just need to confirm your unlock within the app and once the beginning date of your timeframe has elapsed you will be able to fly in the previously NFZ’d area without restriction from DJI! While this process is sufficient and does work. We hope that DJI will continue to develop its GEO program and at the minimum allow certified operators to unlock any area at will. While the current process does work, it does not allow for short notice flights within DJI’s NFZ’s which is an unfortunate and unneeded detriment to UAS drone businesses and their clients.