Drone maker DJI just made it much easier for drone operators to bypass geofencing and hack their way to anywhere, reportedly leaving a development to debug code in the application of their Assistant 2, as told by UAVHive, a group of hobbyists from Yorkshire, England.
— UAVHive (@UAVHive) July 4, 2017
DJI is estimated to be the number one seller of drones in the United States, which means that this code glitch is going to allow a vast number of people to fly their drone wherever they wish to do so.
Some conspiracy theorists speculate that this wasn’t unintentional but rather a marketing ploy in order to bypass flight restrictions.
A statement has been issued by the manufacturer who claimed that they have fixed the bug with a firmware update. The statement also said that the manufacturer will continue to investigate possible breaches of the restrictions and will work on ways to fix it.
Kevin Finisterre isn’t buying into this. The drone security expert has been warning DJI since April about the issue and says that it is incredibly easy to work around the so-called update too.
The bug that allows fliers to go wherever they want has been found on DJI models Spark, the Phantom, and Inspire 2. The hack is so easy to accomplish, only having to change settings a bit. There are even videos on YouTube explaining how to allow drones to fly up to 2,500 feet in as little as two minutes long video!
Although, the video does warn its viewers to not be idiots while using these settings. But geofencing exists because of the said idiots since some of them flew their devices close to UAV-sucking jet engines on passenger planes, police helicopters, and firefighting aircraft. There are stories of drones flying on the lawns of the White House and above playgrounds, causing concussions at parades and making a man so angry that he shot one of them and got away with it at court.
To be completely fair, drone enthusiasts do have a legitimate reason to be angry and frustrated by geofencing. Sky 1, a UAV pilot told the stories of having a paid gig next to a stadium they couldn’t fly over because their DJI drone labeled it a red, no-fly zone. They’ve been also not allowed to fly inside the Class D airspace of an airport despite having the permission as they claimed.
When authorized to fly in an area usually closed for drones, drone operators can unlock these zones using DJI’s GEO system or by submitting a request via email. But according to one person claiming to be a police officer, these aren’t as functional as they seem.
Further statements should be issued in the next few days.