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Can You Fly a Drone in a Warning Zone?

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The words “warning zone” can sound scary to anyone, let alone when it comes to describing the airspace you’re flying your drone in.

If your immediate thought goes to drones falling out of the sky or picturing yourself getting in trouble with the law for flying in top-secret areas, well, I’m here to put your mind at ease.

Can you fly a drone in a Warning Zone?

You can fly a drone in a Warning Zone, but expect a warning from most drones as you enter.

Of course, like with everything, the more you dive into detail, the more intricacies and obstacles you reveal, but what’s drone life without some obstacles to keep you grounded? Literally.

In this article, I will talk about DJI’s geofencing system vs. aviation regulatory systems as well as the different types of Warning Zones, plus authorization, altitude, and restricted zones and what this means in terms of real-time flying.

It’s important to be able to understand where these zones come from and why they exist so you can better and more safely determine where to fly your drone.

Warning Zones as part of a geofencing system #

Warning Zones exist as part of a geofencing system. Geofencing is a virtual “fence” or perimeter around a geographical location that creates a restrictive boundary or wall.

This system uses GPS or RFID to map these boundaries and exists as a safety measure to prevent people from unknowingly flying into dangerous areas.

This system was introduced in DJI drones in 2013 and was created in relation to the existing geographical boundaries of the regulatory bodies of airspace, such as the FAA in the United States.

This is not to say that the DJI geofencing system accurately and fully represents the geographical restrictions of the airspace regulations of the country you are flying in. Just because the geofencing system will let you fly does not mean you are necessarily allowed to fly there.

It’s still important to check the airspace restrictions of the aviation regulatory organization of the country you’re flying in.

For example, DJI might let you take off in a national park, but it is still prohibited by federal authorities. Geofencing is just a safety measure, not a full authorization.

Within this geofencing system included in many drones are what are called Warning Zones. There are two types of Warning Zones, which are what I will focus on, but also included in DJI’s geofencing system are Authorization Zones, Altitude Zones, and Restricted Zones.

Warning Zones vs. Enhanced Warning Zones #

I said there is more than one type of Warning Zone, so let’s talk about the different types now.

Warning Zone #

A Warning Zone is an area where drone pilots will get a warning message during their flight or at takeoff with possible relevant information on the area they’re flying in.

For example, a possible warning message could be, “Your aircraft has entered a Warning Zone (Class E). Fly with caution here.” It does not disable any flight and users can fly as normal.

Enhanced Warning Zone #

An Enhanced Warning Zone is only a little more involved than a Warning Zone. It’s a zone that extends two kilometers out from an Authorization Zone and will prompt a user to confirm and accept full responsibility for the flight before continuing.

Once you select OK, you can continue flying as normal. You do not need an Internet connection or a verified DJI account to continue.

This is considered a sort of “self-unlock,” meaning that you understand the area you’re flying in comes with enhanced risk.

These warning zones can pop up in areas near airports, and as you can see down below, there could be different boundaries for different types of airports.

A high-traffic airport will have its Enhanced Warning Zone further away from the runway than a low-traffic or small recreational airport. These Warning and Enhanced Zones can also exist in other types of areas such as prisons or power plants.

Other zones such as Authorization, altitude, and restricted zones come with either more involved self-unlocking procedures, custom unlocks, limited flying capabilities, or blocking flight altogether.

What to do if your drone doesn’t have geofencing? #

I’ve talked a lot about DJI’s geofencing system and what happens when a Warning Zone pops up when flying one of their drones, but what if you’re flying a drone that doesn’t have geofencing at all?

There are many drones on the market that don’t come with geofencing capabilities built in, and that’s on purpose!

Some of these include the Autel Kestrel, Yuneec Typhoon Q500, and GDU O2 Drone. This does not mean you now have the right and the freedom to fly illegally near airports. You still need to consult the air maps and restricted zones of the airspace regulatory organization.

Here are some apps you can consult:

  1. B4UFLY in the US
  2. NAV Drone in Canada
  3. Drone Assist in the UK
  4. UAV Forecast International

Geofencing vs. no geofencing #

I mentioned above that the geofencing capabilities were left out of some drones on purpose. Why? Well, the geofencing topic has become somewhat of a controversial debate in the drone community.

On the one hand, while geofencing (including Warning Zones, Authorization Zones, etc.) built right into the drone can provide safety benefits by automatically limiting flight or stopping it altogether in riskier zones, there are some disadvantages.

One is the time delay for requesting permission for certain locations or self-unlocking procedures. This can be a disadvantage for people who work in search and rescue or who just need to get their drone up in the air fast.

People also tend to hate being restricted by an arbitrary fence that doesn’t allow them to fly as they want to or grant them the freedom to enjoy their hobby.

Whichever way you feel about geofencing, this system is likely to become more a part of every drone pilot’s life as I foresee many airspace regulatory organizations leaning towards requiring manufacturers to have it built in.

This means that you will likely encounter many warning zones in your drone flying career, but at least now you know they’re nothing to be afraid of. A Warning Zone is just that, a warning.

So continue flying with caution in these areas and you should be good to go!

References:Airport Restricted Areas – Fly Safe – DJI (link)


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