I have been spending a lot of time this summer thinking about how devices are being connected to the Internet, specifically when it comes to drones. As I was traveling around the countryside flying drones, I increasingly came across stories about drones being a nuisance, and most notably being a big huge problem for firefighting crews.
I am flying a DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone, so I was interested to see DJI recently enable real-time geofencing capabilities for drone pilots. If you are unfamiliar with how these drones work, your drone controller is simply an iPad enabled joystick and a mobile application which becomes your control center. Before you can fly the drone, the application goes through a whole series of checks making sure all of the drones variety of systems are all in check.
These drones are hyper aware of their location, maintaining a very detailed flight and activity log. The new DJI geofencing capabilities will now give you updates on wildfire, military, prison, nuclear power plants, and other flight hazards via the DJI GO mobile application. DJI get's its information from airspace intelligence company Airmap, who gets their information from Federal Aviation Administration Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) feed — all driving drone pilot(s) decision on whether it's safe to fly or not.
"GEO by default limits flights into or take-off within locations that raise safety or security concerns. If a flight within one of these locations has been authorized, GEO allows users with verified DJI accounts to temporarily unlock or self-authorize their flights. This unlock function is not available for sensitive national-security locations," according to the DJI Geo system overview. It is interesting to see how this update can be used as an advisory, or something that prevents the operation of a very geo-aware and Internet-connected device.
This is the part of drone activity I find intriguing. I thoroughly enjoy flying them, but the precedent being set for potentially the future of Internet-connected devices is what I find infinitely more interesting. There are a couple of things at play here that I think are important. The fact that an Internet-connected device has the advisory and kill-switch like this is interesting, but also the fact that a manufacturer (Chinese one) has opted to do this on their own (maybe there is another story behind), and that a federal agency data feed can play a real time role in how devices and their operators are making decisions out in the field.
I envision this model being used even more when it comes to federal government regulation of Internet of Things devices, but also within the corporate and institutional governance lifecycle —with devices, and their operators being part of a centralized, API driven, command and control infrastructure. I have a number of stories to work through on this subject, and will keep sharing anything I come across when it comes to direct government connections to the Internet of Things like I am seeing in the drone sector.