New software updates from drone maker DJI have geo-fenced off large areas of Iraq and Syria. The updates to the No-Fly Zones (NFZ) were recently discovered by Kevin Finisterre of drone biz Department 13 and reported to The Register.
The updates were made somewhere between February 25 and 27, seemingly to coincide with a large scale attack from US-backed Iraqi military units in the Western Mosul area. No-Fly Zones 31 and 38, implemented on 27 February, cover the city of Mosul.
Syria No-Fly zone a coincidence?
Too much of a coincidence perhaps? Kevin sure seems to think so. He told The Register: “I’d like to think the peer pressure set in”, indicating that DJI, a Chinese firm, is secretly helping the US war against Islamic extremists.
The software updates, that we rolled out quietly and without any public fanfare, only restrict drones made by DJI, from flying over these parts of Syria and Iraq. Normally No-Fly Zones are limited to airports, stadiums, prisons and military zones. Typically they do not cover large swaths of land like they do now in Syria and Iraq.
If you are interested to see the details of these updates from DJI, they have been prepared by Finisterre and are available for download on Github.
Many people in the drone industry have wondered if these geo restrictions are very effective in stopping Islamic extremists from using consumer drones as affordable air-to-ground attack weapons, as instructions on how to get around them are easily found online. According to an article in the NY Times late October, 2016, the latest tactic has been to attach a grenade or other small explosive to the drone and to drop it over the enemy target.
DJI has released a statement last year following a drone attack in which one of their drones reportedly was used. DJI said: “The use of consumer-drone technology to harm anyone is deplorable. Any loss of life or injury in such a manner is tragic. Those who carry out such acts should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,”