The increase of drones and their ability to hover almost everywhere has brought severe security concerns. But, thanks to Geofencing technology, some of these risks can be mitigated.
Geofencing is a location-based technology that repels a drone’s GPS receivers by creating invisible barriers around protected geographical areas.
Drones with geofencing capability cannot fly into restricted areas without authorization. Drone manufacturers integrate a digital airspace chart that automatically detects the regions with active “no-fly zone” restrictions.
Not everyone thinks Geofencing is a good thing, though. Besides, no zone is ever really a “no-fly zone” if you adhere to the necessary laws. Hence, some drone brands have found a niche in manufacturing and marketing drones without the geofencing feature.
So what’s the best drone without geofencing?
The Autel Kestrel has consistently stood out as the best due to its outstanding quality, extended flight time, long-range, and robust sensors.
However, the GDU O2 Drone, Yuneec Typhoon Q500, and the Autel Evo II appeal to many users either due to their lovely design, unique modes, and a relatively lower cost than the Autel Kestrel.
Nonetheless, your ultimate ranking will depend on your needs and preferences. Therefore, we will review all of them so that you can make an informed choice.
But before that:
The geofencing mechanism is a software restriction on the GPS receivers of a drone flying in a particular location. Different locations have different geographical limits.
Thus, a digital map with coordinates of the restricted geographical areas of a specific region is installed on the drone’s firmware such that it cannot fly into those areas.
You’ll mostly find geofencing technology in DJI drones since they are the pioneers of this technology. But, you may come across it in other drone models as well.
Below are the different types of geofenced zones. You can identify the zones based on color-coding. And since you’ll mostly find geofencing in DJI drones, the color codes and steps on how to unlock will be based on DJI drones.
|What It Means
|You are not allowed to fly in these zones, and you’ll often get a warning on your screen, and the drone will halt right outside the boundary. But if you have requested authorization to fly in the restricted areas, you can request a Custom Unlock through DJI’s website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
|These are zones where you are restricted from flying past a certain altitude.
|These zones are similar to restricted zones, where you’ll get a warning, and the flight will be restricted, but you can request authorization as long as you have a verified DJI Account.
|You may not always see these zones on the map, but they’ll be in Yellow when you do. You’ll get a warning that you’re entering a restricted zone. And a prompt to confirm that you will take responsibility for flying in those zones. An example warning would be; Class E Airspace.
|Enhanced Warning Zones
|Here, you’ll get a warning and a prompt to unlock the zone or just a confirmation that you take responsibility for flying in these zones. The unlocking process is similar to the Authorization zones, but you won’t need a verified DJI account.
|Regulatory Restricted Zones
|While they may not always be color-coded, these are local areas where local law regulatory agencies may limit drones. These include airports, prisons, schools, etc.
|Recommended Flight Zone
|These are the areas you are allowed to fly in.
Red zones are the most restricted areas. You should be careful flying near them since if your drone comes too close, it will most likely stop and maybe even land unexpectedly.
There are two ways to unlock a DJI drone, depending on the zones you’re flying in.
- Self-Unlocking – This is mainly needed for Blue zones (Authorization) and is easily done through DJI’s app before going to the site or even while at the site.
- Custom Unlocking – This is necessary for those who’d like to fly in restricted zones or the Red Zones. You’ll still unlock these zones through the DJI App, but you’ll first need authorization from LAANC or FAA, which you’ll then present to DJI. Also, you can only do a Custom Unlock before getting to the site and not while at the site.
Now let’s see how to go about these types of unlocking.
- Access dji.com/flysafe/self-unlock and log into your account.
- Select the appropriate drone from the menu.
- Enter the address for the area you want to fly in.
- Press the blue pin highlighting the area you want to access.
- Fill in your flight controller’s serial number, which you can find in the DJI Fly app’s General Settings.
- Enter the date and submit.
- Read the Terms and Conditions and click “Agree.”
- Verify your DJI account with your phone or credit card number and complete the Self Unlock process.
- To confirm you’re now authorized, access General Settings on the app and go to “Unlocking List”. You should be able to see the flight license.
- When you enter the Blue Zone, click Yes in the prompt that appears on your screen.
- Verify your account using a credit card number or phone number.
- Click on “Confirm” to initiate the authorization.
Note: For both processes, you need an internet connection. So, if you’ll be filming in a remote area, get the authorization before getting to the site.
- Access dji.com/flysafe/custom-unlock and log into your account.
- Go to unlocking requests.
- In the Basic Information form, enter your name, phone number, authorization, serial number, and any other details it requires.
- Select the appropriate drone model.
- Enter the area’s address in the search bar.
- Press on the red pin highlighting the selected area.
- Enter flight details such as the flight radius you want to cover, altitude, and name.
- Confirm and agree to the Terms and Conditions.
- Wait for at least an hour to receive feedback from DJI. If it’s taking too long, reach out to them at email@example.com.
Benefits of Geofencing
There has been a lot of debate on the effectiveness of geofencing, but it surely has its benefits. For starters, geofencing helps keep pilots accountable. As we’ve seen in the unlocking section, you have to give details such as names or credit card numbers to access a geofenced zone. If the drone crashes or strays out of the stipulated mission, authorities will know who to look for.
Secondly, geofencing can also help keep your drone safe. Drones are prone to hacking, and it’s fairly easy for someone to take control of your drone. But when you have created your own geofence, the hacker may not manage to fly it out of the zone.
And lastly, geofencing helps keep the airspace and protected facilities safe from spying or even drone attacks.
Drawbacks of Geofencing
While geofencing has its benefits, we can’t ignore some of its drawbacks. For instance, drone pilots may need to access restricted zones in search and rescue missions or firefighting.
Since it’s an emergency, they may not have had time to request prior authorization for the custom unlocking. On the other hand, the response for self-unlocking sometimes takes too long, which slows down the operations.
Secondly, flying becomes too restricted and sometimes boring with geofencing, especially if you live close to highly protected areas.
Best Drones without Geofencing
If you’re tired of being restricted on where to fly or not fly, below are some drone models you can consider.
|60-Mile Flight range
2 hours flight time
VTOL (both fixed wings and propellers)
4K and HD output
|Autel EVO II
|9KM flight range
8K Ultra-HD resolution
40 Minutes Flight Time
|30 Minutes Flight time
6 KM Flight range
Home lock and GPS
|Yuneec Typhoon Q500
|4k Ultra-HD resolution
30 Minutes Flight time
Personal Ground Station
The Autel Kestrel is one of the best drones without geofencing due to its impressive flying time, high-quality camera, and highly sophisticated design.
Being a fixed-wing drone with four propellers, also known as VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and landing), it gains elevation fast from any ground surface and can reach the desired speed and height relatively fast. It takes a few seconds to give you a perfect aerial view of your surroundings.
Its peak speed is 40 mph, and due to its robust battery, it can stay in the air for a record of 120 minutes (2 hours).
With a range of up to 60 miles, 2-hour flight time, and a 4K HD resolution, think of all you could do with this drone in both photography and land survey.
Autel Kestrel has multiple high-resolution cameras capable of 4K HD quality streaming and a touch screen for remote control operations.
Furthermore, it’s easy to control. Via an app, you can tether it to your iOS or Android Mobile device if you’re not using its remote controller.
The designers of this drone assembled it to make an above-average gadget that surpasses all drone limitations of speed, weather, and how high it can fly.
- Can cruise at a very high speed
- Long flight range
- Long flight time of 2 hours
- Easy to use
- Big in size
2. Autel Evo II
The Autel Evo II stands out for its quality and performance. Its robust battery supports a 35-40 minute flight time.
Whereas the average drone has a flight range of around 32 yards (30 meters), the Autel Evo II can fly 5.6 miles (9,000 meters) from the transmitter and still find the signal.
The drone also supports 8K Ultra-High Definition (HD) videos and has a 48-megapixel camera for crisp, clear photos. Additionally, it has three camera sizes instead of the one found in average drones and more than four ranges of resolutions, peaking at 7680×4320.
The Evo II comes with several flight modes like the Position Hold, Headless Flight, Altitude Hold, and the IOC (Intelligent Orientation Control). The IOC is a return to home mode.
One of the most lauded is the Altitude Hold feature that makes the drone hover around a particular spot, making it possible to get crisp, clear shots.
Furthermore, you can hook your phone or tablet for still photos, thanks to its robust transmission. Thus, you don’t need to carry bulky gadgets during your photography outings.
Moreover, it comes with the Follow Me mode and can trace your movements while recording videos. That, coupled with the fact that geofencing does not limit it, makes it one of the best videography and photography drones for all areas.
The long flight time makes it ideal for lengthy surveying tasks. Furthermore, it has a lightweight (14 oz or 0.4 kg) foldable design and is thus suitable for rapid deployment and easy carrying.
The Evo II is designed with a peak speed of 45 mph and can thus fly quicker and farther. With an 8GB internal memory and support for up to 256 GB external memory, it can store long video footage too.
- Has a follow-me mode
- More than one camera resolution
- Multiple camera sizes
- Top-quality performance
- Four flight modes
- It doesn’t have a waypoints function
3. GDU O2 Drone
The GDU O2 drone measures 7.3 x 2.0 x 3.6 inches and weighs 1.6 pounds, and has a compact design making it easy to carry. The sliding arms that act as the props could be slid into the drone body, reducing the overall size of the gadget, especially when you want to fit it in a small bag.
Thus, it fits the bill for travelers who also want to pack along their hiking, rock climbing, surfing, and diving gear.
With a battery that can last 25-30 minutes and a video transmission range of 0.6 miles (1 km), it goes further out and lasts longer to capture those priceless moments and scenes. Besides, it features the Home Lock and GPS Modes.
Launching the GDU O2 is very easy. After unboxing, it takes a few touches on the smart display to fly it out. A single tap on the trackpad brings it home in case of an emergency.
It features the headless mode, which gives you full control of the drone regardless of your position on the ground and the direction it’s facing. This feature spares novice pilots the headache of having to correct the drone’s position before takeoff.
The GDU O2 peaks at a speed of 31 mph and doesn’t lose the signal from the transmitter up to a distance of nearly 4 miles (6,400 meters).
It supports High Definition video capture resolutions—HD 720 Pixels, 4K High Definition (HD), and the FHD 1080 pixels. On the other hand, it supports a Video Output Resolution of up to 1280×720 Pixels. Furthermore, it comes with 3-axis gimbals that boost its camera stability and thus produce stunning 4K footages.
Ultimately, it’s a great drone for beginners. With the headless mode, you don’t need to worry about adjusting its position before launching it into the air and you can control it no matter which direction it’s facing.
- A one-touch command for landing the drone
- Long-range signal transmission
- Easy to use for beginners
- High-quality camera
- It doesn’t have a gimbal mount
4. Yuneec Typhoon Q500
Although the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 is designed for an average signal range (0.5 miles or 800 meters), it can stay in the air for 30 minutes on a full charge. It charges to full capacity in only an hour and 20 minutes.
This drone can also achieve a maximum speed of 18 mph.
The Yuneec Typhoon Q500 comes with a Personal Ground station, but the whole setup is easy to use even for a beginner. It’s ideal for professional photography, inspection, and construction projects.
Its mechanical composition includes a 3-axis gimbal that keeps the camera steady. Thus, it can take top-quality videos without a blur.
Furthermore, it supports 4K ultra-HD video at a frame rate of 30 fps and 1080 pixels with a frame rate of 120fps in slow motion.
Stunningly, you can customize the video resolution, light exposure, and white balance to match your preferences.
- Swift and easy to maneuver
- Has a lengthy flight time
- Easy to control even for beginners
- The design is not compact and needs a big bag to carry
- It’s heavy
Frequently Asked Questions
Is going past a geofence illegal?
Hacking the GPS software of your drone and disabling the geofencing controls in itself isn’t illegal. It’s just the same as jailbreaking your phone and rooting it. Though not illegal, you lose your warranty.
However, the problem is what you want to do with the drone whose geofencing is disabled. If you’re going to use it over restricted no-go zones, that’s illegal, and you can be slapped with a lawsuit.
Are there any risks of using drones without geofencing?
Yes, there are several risks of using drones without geofencing.
First, it may land you in legal issues. Individuals and corporations who feel you’ve intruded into their privacy against their wishes can take you to court.
One of the piloting rules states that you should ensure your aircraft is 30 meters (32 yards) away from human beings and property.
At 30 meters, it’s improbable your drone will be spotted unless it has a top range sensor and camera.
For instance, in Queensland, Australia, it’s against the law to record someone in his private space without consent.
If you’re flying an aircraft over a farmer’s house and taking photographs of the farmer tending to his livestock, you may fall into lawsuits for intruding into other people’s privacy.
Additionally, allowing a drone into private property is deemed as trespassing. Private land and houses are thus legally protected from drones.
Secondly, a drone without geofencing can collide with another aircraft since it can get close to airports and helipads.
Keeping your drone without geofencing out of airports, runways, and helipads is crucial to keeping other people safe.
Finally, there’s the risk of losing your drone or getting into trouble with law enforcement agencies. A trespassing drone may be shot down, or its signal jammed, initiating the RTH. In such cases, the drone returns home, giving up the pilot’s location.
Do Skydio drones have geofencing?
Skydio drones lack geofencing, making them another good option for those looking for drones without geofencing.
They feature powerful GPS capabilities, intelligent flight modes, an automatic return to home feature, and obstacle avoidance.
Does the DJI Mini have geofencing?
Like most DJI drones, the DJI Mavic Mini has geofencing. Luckily, DJI allows you to unlock the geofencing in various zones using either the Self-Unlock or the Custom Unlock.
Do Hubsan drones have geofencing?
Hubsan drones lack geofencing, which is a great advantage considering they are some of the most affordable drones featuring headless modes, GPS capabilities, longer flight times, waypoints, and follow me modes, among other advanced features.
Verdict: Best Drone without Geofencing
A drone without geofencing is just an ordinary drone with “special privileges.” In my opinion, the Autel Kestrel tops the list. Besides being among the fastest, it can go furthest without losing a signal and still stay in the air longer than any other drone.
But if you’re looking for a cheaper drone that’s the perfect replacement for DJI Drones, the Autel EVO II, and most Autel drones would be ideal. Besides, even though they lack Geofencing, they will alert you that you are entering a restricted zone.
The geofencing feature is indeed affecting how people choose which drone to buy. “To geofence or not” is a debate that may take many years to resolve.
Although you may have a valid reason for purchasing a drone without geofencing, it’s essential to understand the laws that govern the flying of UAVs in your country or locality.
Ultimately, it’s essential to review the risks that a drone without geofencing poses. If the risk is manageable, in your opinion, then you can choose the best drones without geofencing from this review.