DJI has urged authorized drone users in the southeast United States to prepare their equipment and their operating procedures for the impending arrival of Hurricane Dorian.
It said other drone owners should follow the FAA’s guidance and ground their aircraft during rescue and recovery operations.
Mario Rebello, DJI vice president and North America regional manager, said: “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.”
Adding: “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.”
The manufacturer said public safety agencies, utility operators, media outlets and other drone users with FAA authorization to fly DJI drones should prepare now to ensure they can fly in a chaotic post-storm environment without electricity or internet service.
DJI has unlocked its geofencing restrictions for drones operated by Florida Power & Light Company, which serves more than 10 million people across the state of Florida, and is working with other utilities which may be called in to assist recovery efforts.
It is also working with Florida emergency management agencies and with DJI Enterprise dealers who serve first responders to quickly unlock geofencing for public safety drones in Florida.
The company said that operators of DJI drones should ensure they have updated to the latest versions of firmware for their drones, batteries and remote controllers, as well as their flight control apps such as DJI Pilot and DJI GO 4.
They should also ensure all batteries in all equipment are fully charged and urged operators who may need to fly DJI drones in geofenced areas to apply to unlock those areas as soon as possible, since unlocking requires an internet connection:
The FAA approves emergency response drone flights following natural disasters through its Special Governmental Interest (SGI) process, which is open to applicants with existing Part 107 Remote Pilot certificates or Certificates of Waiver or Authorization.
Drone owners who do not have FAA authorization to fly as part of Hurricane Dorian response and recovery should not fly in the aftermath of the storm.
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.