Here in the United States we have the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) governing and enforcing everything that has to do with flying and the use of the NAS (National Air Space). This is the agency that sets the rules on who can fly where, throughout the entire country.
For safety and security reasons, No-Fly Zones, also referred to as restricted air space, have been established in a multitude of areas across the U.S.
If you want to fly your drones in restricted air space, you have to get authorization in advance. The system the FAA has set up to obtain permission is LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability).
During the planning phase of your flight, you need to check the area where you will be flying. Several web pages exist to help you discover these restricted areas.
UAS Facilities Map
This is an interactive map of the United States and its territories that can be a quick reference for the area you intend to fly in.
Once the map has loaded, you can quickly zoom in on the exact area you are seeking and instantly see any and all restrictions.
On your first visit to the page, take time to explore all the tabs and options.
So much information is available that I could write an entire article on the Facilities Map and how to use it.
Another FAA site is the VFR Charts. You can find these charts through the FAA page over here.
This site will give you lists of different restrictions like Notice to Airmen (NOTAMs) and Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) and include why the restrictions are in place and for how long they will last.
The FAA also offers an app for your phone or other mobile devices that is easily loadable from the:
Get the app and register to use it.
Then, when you open up, it will place you on a map exactly where you are standing and show you if there are any restrictions there.
DJI’s Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) is a geospatial information system that gives DJI users up-to-date information about areas where flight may be limited due to safety concerns or regulations to help them make smart decisions about where and when to fly.
On the DJI page, you will have access to a couple of videos about safe operations of your drone and DJI’s own video on how to unlock Geofencing.
Click the Geo Zone Map button, and you will be able to see the map of where you are and all the different restricted zones that have been set.
The zones are:
- Restricted Zones – On the map,, these areas are reddish and represent air space that you cannot fly in.
- Altitude Zones – are gray and indicate that the height of your flight may be regulated.
- Authorization Zones – are air space areas that you need permission from the FAA to fly in. They are blue-colored and to get authorization, you must apply through LAANC. We will cover that more later.
- Warning Zones – are shaded yellow, and although you do not need LAANC authorization, the DJI app will give you an on-screen warning.
- Enhanced Warning Zones – again, no LAANC authorization is needed, but you will need to unlock the Geofencing DJI has programmed. These areas are shaded amber.
There may be some other zones indicated, but no action is necessary on your part.
During your flight planning research, you might find that you desire to fly in a No Fly Zone.
So how is it that you can get clearance to operate?
Since you are planning a flight in an Authorization Zone, you will need to go to a LAANC site. The FAA has contracted with several websites and you can choose anyone you may like.
They are all different, but the process is the same to get authorized.
Log into whichever app you have chosen to connect with LAANC. A map will be displayed, so you have to navigate to the area you wish to fly.
If you are inside the controlled area, use the tools to draw out the area you wish to fly in, fill in the form with the information they need, like your requested AGL, the dates and times you wish to fly, and the extra precautions you will take to remain safe.
In most cases, LAANC will respond within a couple of minutes with an email with denial or authorization.
Keep that email because you will need the authorization numbers to unlock the Geofencing that DJI has installed in some of its drones, and you might be asked during your flight for proof of authorization.
Unlocking DJI Geofencing
I know that DJI is concerned about flying safely, and maybe they are being proactive against lawsuits, but I think that the Geofencing is a little bit big brotherish, if that is a word.
I suppose that if one of their drones was involved in an incident that cost millions of dollars, they might be held responsible for some of the damages. To mitigate that possibility, they have placed Geofencing into the programming.
If you want to fly in a limited air space area, you must physically apply to unlock the program and check the boxes that relieve DJI of responsibility.
The process is very much like applying for LAANC authorization, but DJI includes Warning Zones and Advanced Warning Zones in their Geofencing system, so let’s get them unlocked.
On your computer, sign into your DJI account. You should already have opened an account if you have a DJI drone, but the process is very simple.
- Go to DJI.com and log in or register.
- At the register phase, enter the email address you want to be associated with the account and choose a password.
- You will get the Application Successful message
- You will be taken back to the sign-on page.
- Go to DJI.com/flysafe and sign in again.
- Scroll down the page and click Unlock A Zone.
- If this is your first time unlocking a zone or you are just registering, you will get the page that asks you to complete the Authentication Application.
- Click this, and you will be taken to the User Center page to complete the background certification, device management, and pilot management pages.
- In background certification, you will be asked to certify in one of three categories. Read the descriptions carefully. The options are:
Organization Account 👈
- I advise that, if possible, apply for the Organization Account.
This gives you broader access and faster response times than the Personal Account.
Government accounts require a lot more documentation but if you meet the criteria, do that one.
- Device Management and Pilot Management are self-explanatory so complete those areas next.
- Now you can go back to the DJI.com/flysafe page, scroll down to Unlock A Zone, and click it.
- You will be taken to the Unlock page, where all your previous unlock requests are listed.
- Just click on the New Unlock Request, and you will be taken to the long disclaimer that you need to “confirm” that you accept the responsibility.
It is a good idea to read the disclaimer at least the first time so that you know DJI is handing all the responsibility of the flight over to you, the pilot.
- The next page asks if you want to do a Custom Unlocking or a Zone Unlocking.
- Custom Unlocking will require you to draw a specific area you plan to fly within.
- Zone Unlocking lets you select the entire Warning Zone to fly in. Usually, Zone Unlocking is easier, but I will cover the instructions for both types.
- Click to Confirm your selection.
- The next page asks for your drone information and pilot information and is the same for Custom or Zone Unlocking.
In fact, if you have filled in the device and pilot management information correctly, the boxes will give you your devices to select from.
- Then comes the map.
- In the search bar, enter the address or location that you want to unlock.
- If you don’t have the listing of the location, you can manipulate the map and find the area you want.
Note: In the Custom Unlock map, you can draw a circle around the area you want to unlock, then enter the altitude you want to fly to, the reason you want to unlock the area, and the time and date of your planned flight. Then click submit.
Note: In the Zone Unlocking, you still need to fill in the blanks for equipment and pilot, but the map page will be a little different. Place your cursor over the zone you want to fly in and click it. Fill in the blanks for date and time, and the reason for the unlock, then submit.
- Once all the blanks are filled in and proof of authorization uploaded (if necessary), click the submit button, and you will get an unlock or denial within seconds.
- As soon as your unlock application is approved, you will receive an email that tells you the application was approved and give you the approval number.
- The email also gives you a link to unlock the drone.
- Click on that link, and the page will give you a list of all the types of controllers that DJI uses.
- Click your controller model, and the email will give you video instructions to apply to your specific model drone and controller.
Flying in the Unlocked Zone
Make sure that you start and finish your flight within the zone or the custom area you have requested.
I have personally experienced trying to start outside an unlocked zone and either not been able to start my motors, or fly right up to the zone and get stopped by the Geofence, or else been inside the zone and not been able to fly out.
Follow these instructions, and you should have no problems getting authorization to fly in No Fly Zones.
Have fun and fly safe.