DJI makes major safety upgrade, adds ADS-B in tech

By Luke Geiver | May 23, 2019

DJI will add ADS-B transponders to all new drones that weigh 250 grams or more (less than one pound). The addition of ADS-B—the same communication transponding tech used in the airplane and helicopter industry—is part of DJI’s Elevating Safety initiative. AirSense, according to the world’s largest manufacturer of civilian drones, is part of a safety push by DJI to offer small unmanned aircraft systems that can detect airplanes and helicopters from miles away to avoid any issues. DJI did not disclose the cost of adding ADS-B to new drones. The system will be interegrated into the control interface and will alert a pilot when a signal has been picked up, The systems do not provide an ADS-B out signal. 

“DJI was the first company to offer geofencing, automatic altitude limits, return-to-home technology and other safety features to the world’s growing community of personal and professional drone pilots. We believe our efforts have helped drones attain their enviable safety record, and we expect our new agenda will further improve safety even as more drones take to the skies,” said Brendan Schulman, vice president for policy and legal affiars.

Several non-drone industry representatives from the greater aviation community commented favorably on DJI’s AirSense plans.

Andrew Moore, executive director at the National Agricultural Aviation Association, said ag pilots and crop sprayers cannot detect low flying drones when they are flying. The use of ADS-B will enhance their ability to detect-and-avoid small UAVS. “DJI’s safety policy is beyond what we have been urging the FAA and other drone manufacturers to require for multiple years. We appreciate DJI’s commitment to all airspace users’ well-being and look forward to working with them on equipping sense and avoid technology to their drones to complement the ADS-B system,” Moore said. 

Justin Barkowski, vice president of regulatory affairs at the American Association of Airport Executives, said the new tech implementation plan by DJI will help in areas near airports where it is needed most.

The addition of ADS-B is only part of DJI’s new safety plans. The company also rolled out a 10-point safety plant it believes the entire drone manufacturing and pilots industry should adopt. The plan includes the following:

-DJI will install ADS-B receivers in all new drones above 250 grams

-DJI will develop a new automatic warning for drone pilots flying at extended distances

-DJI will establish an internal Safety Standards Group to meet regulatory and customer expectations

-Aviation industry groups must develop standards for reporting drone incidents

-All drone manufacturers should install geofencing and remote identification

-Governments must require remote identification

-Governments must require a user-friendly knowledge test for new drone pilots

-Governments must clearly designate sensitive restriction areas

-Local authorities must be allowed to respond to drone threats that are clear and serious

-Governments must increase enforcement of laws against unsafe drone operation