As we are all aware, when it comes to how high we can fly our drones, there’s a limit. 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL). Now although that is the limit, there are times when you need to make an exception.
Let’s say you’re inspecting a Cell tower and it’s 1,200ft. in total height. If you just stay to the 400AGL limit, you will miss 800ft of that tower. However, when flying around something like a tower, be sure to have permission.
What if you fly in the mountains? Here is an area where the surrounding elevations may change dramatically. Depending on where you takeoff you may be higher than 400ft. from the valley floor already. In these cases, always fly within the rules.
As we know there may be times when you will need to change the height restriction within your drone, the next question is, how do we do that?
To adjust the height limit on a DJI drone, go to the Main Controller Settings, and there you will see Max altitude. Here you can select a height limit ranging from 20 meters up to 500 meters, or 1640 feet. The default setting is 120 meters.
To enable your DJI drone to fly higher than that, you would have to hack your drone’s programing, which isn’t recommended.
All drones have a height limit. In the craft’s programming, the default is generally 394 feet (120 meters). This is usually set as the default due to the regulations we fly under.
Can drones go higher? Well of course they can. Before we get to covering how to change these limits, let’s take a moment to think about air.
What is Air?
Air is that thing we breathe and have to have to exist. Well, what is air?
Air is the invisible mixture of gases that surrounds the Earth. Air contains important substances, such as oxygen and nitrogen that most species need to survive. It’s much more than that though.
Air is alive, it is constantly changing and has so many facets that really make it seem like an entity of its own. You have wind currents, updrafts, downdrafts, and much more. It’s well known that when you get high enough up, the air gets thinner.
It’s at this point where all drones will have issues gaining more altitude. The props and motors just can’t produce lift anymore at this point. Typically, this becomes a problem at around 15,000 feet. Now you’ll never go that high, I hope!
Let’s look at how we can adjust those heights some!
How to change the height limits on DJI Drones
So, whether you fly a Phantom 4, Mavic 2 or 3, Air 2S or Air, a Mini, or Mini 2, changing the height limit from the default of 120m is fairly straightforward.
From the Main Controller Settings, go to Max altitude. Here you can put in a number up to 500 meters, or 1640 feet.
You will be informed that your height setting is above that of the regulations and will need to acknowledge that you are aware of that.
There you go. All DJI drone systems are similar.
As shown above, changing the height limit is within the app and found on the main controller page.
Just like the Phantom 4, the height can be adjusted from the 120m limit to 500m. You will find this procedure is basically the same for all DJI aircraft.
What if 500 meters isn’t enough?
What if 500 meters isn’t enough? Let’s be very honest here – it is!
500 meters or 1,640 feet should cover you in almost every circumstance. Yes, you can hack your drone, but doing so will void any warranty programs and you will most likely not be covered by any insurance you may carry.
By hacking your system, you will be removing certain safety features that are meant to be there. It is possible that you may need to exceed such heights, and in very special situations, well you may need to.
You will find there are tutorials available online that will walk you through these steps. It is not recommended, as it can have an adverse effect on how your craft operates and when going to such heights the flying experience will change.
The winds will be stronger, the craft may have difficulties maintaining a position, and your battery will deplete faster as the craft tries to maintain itself. Just be cautious if you decide this is an option for you.
No Fly Zones!
Unlike the ease of changing the Maximum Height, DJI has no-fly zones that are a little harder to get around. If you’ve ever found yourself in one of these areas without being prepared, your craft will not lift off. It can be quite irritating when this happens.
Before we get into it, knowing which areas are no-fly zones is important. There may be times when you put in for a release, just to realize the area is overlapped by yet another no-fly zone, and you will need to put in a release request in for all the zones.
If you miss one of these overlapping zones, guess what, your craft still won’t lift off. If you’re not kicking that drone like a football by now, you have more patience than I do!
Beyond putting in for an airspace authorization in certain areas, you will also need to unlock the drone.
This is done by going to the DJI website, located here.
From this page:
- Scroll down to the Unlock Section.
- Here you will see your previous unlock requests if any, and be able to access a New Unlock Request.
- Here you will input your personal information, such as your name, phone number, device, and pilot information.
- When complete, select the next tab at the bottom of the page.
After selecting next, you will then be taken to the map page where you can select your area and put in the reason for the request.
As you can see from the above, it is here that you will be given an option of uploading an FAA authorization for this area. Once all the information is in place, select submit at the bottom of the page and your request will be processed.
This can take a few seconds to come back to a few hours, all dependent on the request and the area of interest. Either way, you will receive a notice that the request has been approved or denied. I’ve never had one denied myself but have heard that it has happened to some other pilots.
Once the unlock has been approved, you will want to verify that it is in place. You can do this by going to the main menu general setting and selecting the Unlocking License section.
You will see your unlock present in this section. If there is no unlock present, it’s best to put in the request again. You should see something like this if all is well.
With this knowledge, you will be able to fly in places that may have been off-limits before, and you will be able to fly higher.
Caution: when flying within DJI Geo zones, it is more important than ever to be observant and aware of your surroundings as there may be more air traffic than in non-geo zone locations.
You may find that there is a limit to the height of flights in these areas. This would be due to aircraft flying lower than normal or even coming in for a landing. Remember, you have to give way to manned craft.
Like you, going through these steps can be a bit of a pain. I know! It is important though, it’s all about safety. Safety for your craft and the safety of other craft you may be sharing airspace with.
For a full tutorial on how to unlock geofencing, check out the article below.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!