A European is facing criticism online from drone hobbyists after uploading a video to YouTube showing him flying his DJI Phantom 2 consumer quadcopter drone 11,000ft (3.4km) into the air, far higher than the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)'s stated drone safety regulations.
On 3 March, YouTube user Tollymaster uploaded a video showing a drone flight taking place somewhere in Europe. The man wrote in the description that he had been trying to break all existing drone records, so he had flown the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) up to the great height of 11,000ft, directed the drone to rotate in the air to show a panoramic view, and then brought the drone back down again with only 4% battery remaining, just before the drone lost power completely.
One day later Netherlands-based blog Drone Watch wrote about the video, calling the operator an "idiot", which led to widespread criticism on internet hobbyist drone forums, as 11,000ft is far, far, outside the limits set by EU drone regulations.
The regulations clearly state that besides staying away from airports, military bases and power plants, consumer drones can only be flown to a maximum height of 500ft (150m) in order to make sure that they do not risk colliding with commercial aeroplanes in Class B controlled airspace, as the planes gradually ascend into the sky to get to cruising altitudes of between 28,000-35,000ft.
Seeing that drone enthusiasts usually do not like being told what they can and cannot do, it is heartening to see some enthusiasts telling the user off, who has now since removed the video from YouTube. However, the video is still being hosted on vid.me, uploaded by someone who calls the anonymous drone operator "a hero" and a "game changer".
User likely disabled drone software to make stunt possible
Some of the enthusiasts commenting on the issue point out that drone manufacturers need to be doing more to place restrictions on their software so that have-a-go drone operators cannot just break the rules and send their drones up into the great beyond, where they risk causing a huge international incident, or losing the drone for good if the battery runs out, which could also lead to it hitting someone as it falls back to the ground.
"It is not clear exactly which drone model, which firmware or app version the person is using. Also unclear are what modifications or other steps the person has taken to disable built-in limits and other features preinstalled to ensure safe flying behaviour and practices. Regardless, he is using technology not nearly as reliable or sophisticated as that onboard current models to carry out an ill-advised stunt," a DJI spokesperson told IBTimes UK.
"In some models of the old Phantom 2, when moving into more-advanced flight modes, the restriction could be user-adjusted, but only to about 1,500ft. Even at that level, users should have a legitimate reason to fly at that altitude.
"DJI encourages safe and appropriate use of our technology and does not condone any improper activities, modifications or unsafe actions. We have long encouraged customers to educate themselves about safe flying practices and be aware of local rules and restrictions and continue to do so.
"Both we and regulators seek the same thing – safer skies. And we work closely with them to ensure rules and regulations are made based on facts and common sense and fairness to all who share the skies."