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This may be the strangest firmware update ever

1 minute read

DJIDJI Phantom 2

Did you see the story from a couple of days ago about the drone that crash-landed in the White House garden? Seems that it has led to the oddest reason for a firmware update ever...

We're not going to make any comment whatsoever about the advisability of flying camera drones at 3.00am in the vicinity of what is probably the most security locked-down building on the planet, but there is one very curious outcome to this, according to Engadget.

Apparently DJI, the maker of the drone in question, is rushing out a firmware update; one which you have to install, that will disable the drone from flying within 15.5 miles of the White House.

There really is no option with this. Unless you stubbornly refuse to update your firmware, ever, then you're going to find that your drone has this "feature".

And isn't it an odd thing, that our machines and devices have become so clever, and so all-embracing, that a firmware update can dictate where they can fly?

GPS in Drones

Just in case you're not up to speed with drones, and if you've blinked in the last year, there's a chance you won't be, they usually have GPS which allows them to hold the same position in the sky, to fly to pre-set points, and to return to base safely if they lose touch with the remote-controller. It's the same mechanism that will have allowed DJI to program a no-go zone.

What's the betting that the government (or governments worldwide) will issue mandatory lists of co-ordinates where drones are not allowed.

And also, what's the likelihood that independently-minded (for whatever reason) drone owners will hack into the firmware and install work-arounds.

Whatever the implications of this little episode, we can't help thinking that this is a wonderfully abstract state of affairs, where a manufacturer can dictate where their products can be used with a simple, mandatory firmware upgrade.

But hang on a minute. This has happened before. Do you remember region codes with DVDs? And of course this type of thing is already commonplace with content distribution. Have you ever tried watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart  from outside of the United States?

Tags: Technology