In response to the approach of Hurricane Dorian, drone manufacturer DJI issued a statement reminding drone operators to follow FAA guidance and keep drones grounded during and after the storm unless participating in authorized emergency response operations. “Airspace in affected areas will be crowded with low-flying helicopters and airplanes flying unusual patterns, temporary flight restrictions may be applied with little notice, and drone pilots who interfere with emergency response could face fines as high as $20,000,” the company said. DJI also urged operators who expect to be engaged in rescue efforts to make sure their equipment and operating procedures are properly prepared including updating firmware, charging equipment and applying for the removal of geofencing restrictions if necessary.
According to DJI, it has already unlocked geofencing restrictions for drones operated by Florida Power & Light Company to “assist recovery efforts.” The company says it is also working with other utility companies, Florida emergency management agencies and first responders to unlock geofencing. “First responders and utility companies today rely on drones to help people during emergencies, and DJI expects our products will play a critical—even lifesaving—role in responding to this looming disaster,” said DJI Vice President Mario Rebello. “We want to make sure authorized drones can do their jobs safely and effectively in the days ahead, and that other drones stay out of rescuers’ way.”