Dronesgator logo

How to Unlock Geofencing on DJI Drones (Self Unlock Complete Guide)

Updated in 2022 by Paul Posea
Geofensing

Most of us fly drones for the sense of freedom it gives us. But if you’ve been a pilot long enough, then you know there are several restrictions on drone flying.

There are altitude restrictions, maximum distance, etc… but those are for another article. This one is about geofencing, no-fly zones that DJI have implemented in their drones’ software to better allow pilots to fly safely.

The system is called DJI Flysafe and uses GPS to create virtual no-fly zones around sensitive areas. In some cases you can push through the warning on your phone screen, in other cases the drone will physically be unable to fly over the designated no-fly area, which needless to say is incredibly frustrating (especially if you’re flying commercially).

Unlocking geofenced areas is simple and can be done through a quick and hassle free online process. Depending on which no-fly zone you want to access, this can either be done through DJI GO/Fly mobile apps, or directly through the DJI Flysafe website.

What is Geofencing?

To answer that we’ll have to go back to 2013, when DJI first introduced the concept of no-fly zones and then three years later announced the GEO system.

The reason for why DJI introduced this geolocking feature is likely because of legal liability. After all, if they explicitly stop you from flying over an illegal zone and you intentionally find a way to circumvent that restriction, you’ll have yourself to blame while DJI won’t be held liable.

DJI’s Geofencing uses GPS signals to keep your drone out of restricted flying zones like airports, prisons, and other places where security is a concern, this can be optional or required. 

DJI drones can’t take off or be flown without permission in certain regions, which are referred to as “geofenced”.

In some cases you’ll need the clearance of the local authorities in charge of drone activities to fly in a no-fly zone. DJI has gone the extra mile though and simplified that process into two easy ways which we’ll go over in a minute.

Just now that the GEO system exists for your safety and protection. It provides more information than just where not to fly (which we’ll also go over in this article).

How to know if an area is Geofenced?

If you’re unsure whether you’re flying in a clear area or one that’s geofenced, no need to spin your wheels about it. The process of finding that out is as simple as heading over to DJI’s official Flysafe map to see whether the area in which you want to fly is located in a geofenced “zone” that will require unlocking.

Once on the website, simply enter the address of the area where you’re planning to fly. Make sure to check off the “Warning Zones” and “Enhanced Warning Zones” boxes to make sure all of the geofencing information will be included in your search.

3UDJOhSv8Z6XQKXiFz

Understanding DJI GEO Zones (Color Coding)

The colors that you can see on the Flysafe map may be confusing if you’re not too familiar with them. They’re really not complicated though, once you understand what each color means, you’ll find it easier to navigate the GEO map.

Red Zones

Red zones indicate restricted areas, which you physically can’t fly over unless you did a Custom Unlock. I’ll walk you through how to do that in a second.

Note: if you already have permission, email DJI at flysafe@dji.com and let them know.

Gray Zones

This color indicates areas with altitude restrictions, usually near airports or air force bases. Due to safety reasons, this restriction cannot be turned off.

Usually, drones will have a 162 ft (60-meter) height limitation and have to be 2.1 mi (3.4 km) in a straight line away from the runway.  A warning will appear in the DJI app when you enter an altitude zone, and your flight height will be forcefully limited.

Blue Zones

These are less sensitive areas called authorization zones. The blue color indicates areas where flying is risky but up to your discretion if you choose to fly or not. You can usually fly after completing self unlock (which I’ll walk you through).

Yellow Zones

This color indicates warning zones. Areas where flying can be dangerous but aren’t limited. Meaning you won’t need to do a self or custom. When taking off in these areas, you’ll get a warning notification on your DJI fly/go app.

These notifications can be turned off if you’re a daredevil though.

Orange Zones

Same as yellow zones, just slightly more sensitive areas. It can also be turned off if you want, and you can fly in them without restrictions or needing authorization. Usually enhanced warning zones are close to airports (or other critical infrastructure facilities).

Other Zones

Other zones that do not fall under any color but are strictly forbidden for drone pilots can include facilities like prisons, military camps, government buildings and similar locations.

I don’t need to stress the importance of not flying over these facilities, but just to be safe, know that you’ll probably face jail time if you end up doing so (in the U.S).

Below is an explanation of some patterns you may come across when it comes to airports: 

What is DJI GEO unlocking?

We’ll now be discussing how exactly to unlock some areas (those that you can unlock) and the types of unlocking you’ll have to do.

DJI geo unlocking is a process that allows you to bypass DJI’s geofencing from certain types of restricted zones. This can be useful if you want to fly in an area that is normally off-limits, or if you want to use a drone with features that are normally restricted.

Types of Geo unlocking you can do

Each geo zone as we’ve discussed above has unique requirements to it. Some can’t be unlocked no matter what, others can either be unlocked through self unlocking (associated with blue zones), or through custom unlocking (associated with red/orange zones).

Self Unlock zones can be unlocked fairly easily by clicking through a series of buttons on your DJI FLY or GO app, while Custom Unlock zones require proof of authorization (via LAANC or other documentation, such as a COA), and are done via the DJI Flysafe website.

Self Unlock

This type of unlocking works for areas that can be self-unlocked, such as Authorization Zones. These areas only require the user to have a DJI account to have their identity verified the verification is usually done through SMS).

Self Unlock can be done either before you fly or while you’re at the location where you plan to fly.

Performing a self unlock before you fly:

The process is a fairly simple one.

  • Head over to DJI’s Self Unlock page and log into your DJI account (I’m assuming you already have one).
  • Select your drone’s exact model from the drop-down menu.
  • In the Geo Map, enter the address of the area where you plan to fly.
  • Select the blue pin that covers the zone you want to unlock (remember, blue = Self Unlock zone).
  • Enter your flight controller’s serial number.
  • Choose the planned date of your flight and hit Submit (An unlock will last for 72 hours after the initial time and date).
  • Agree to the terms and conditions and click ‘Agree.’
  • Use either the phone number or credit card number associated with your DJI account to verify your identity (if you choose your phone number, you’ll receive an SMS – I recommend using your number).
  • A popup will indicate ‘Verification Complete’ you can then click ‘Proceed.’ (if the verification is successful)

And you’re done. After securing your self unlock with the steps listed above, you’ll need to do the following: 

Go to Camera View, then select General Settings and select Unlocking List in the DJI GO app to confirm your flight license has been downloaded. 

See this page on the DJI website for more information: https://www.dji.com/flysafe/self-unlock.

Performing a self unlock while you’re in the location:

This one is even easier and is the way that I'd recommend, it’s far less hassle than the previous one. Just make sure you have an internet connection.

  • Open your DJI Go App or Go 4.
  • When you’re flying and the flight restriction warning appears, hit “Yes”.
  • Use either the phone number or credit card number associated with your DJI account to verify your identity (if you choose your phone number, you’ll receive an SMS – I recommend using your number).
  • Hit “confirm” to conclude the self unlock.

Custom Unlock

A custom unlock requires proof of authorization for flying over restricted areas (red zones) and can only be done through DJI’s website. It’s also not always guaranteed that you’ll get the authorization.

Make sure to get your Custom Unlock before you go out into the location because you won’t get a Custom Unlock right away. 

I’ll go over the steps you need to take but before we start you need to make sure you’ve already received an authorization from the local authorities to fly in the designated area. They’re the ones who’ll allow you to fly after all. Requesting a custom unlock is only done to show DJI you’re allowed to fly.

I’ve found this article online which goes in detail about the steps you need to take.

  • Head over to DJI’s Custom Unlock page and log into your DJI account.
  • Hit ‘Unlocking Requests.’
  • Fill out the ‘Basic Information’ form — Information such as your name, a verified DJI account, your flight controller serial number, operation details, and authorization documentation (IMPORTANT).
  • Once done filling the form, hit ‘Next Step.’
  • Select your drone’s exact model from the drop-down menu (like we did in self unlocking)
  • In the Geo Map, enter the address of the area where you plan to fly.
  • Select the red pin that covers the zone you want to unlock.
  • On the right-hand side of the Map, enter the intended flight radius, altitude.
  • Hit ‘Confirm’ and enter the verification code (that you’ll receive via SMS) when prompted and click ‘Confirm.’
  • Agree to the terms and conditions and click ‘Agree.’

Once done, you’ll just have to wait now . DJI will review your Custom Unlock request and reply via email, usually within one hour of submission. If your request is approved you will receive an email confirmation letting you know. 

From there you can download the unlocking license and upload it through the app (I’ll show you how in a minute).

Downloading the unlocking license in DJI Go

Once your request is approved, you’ll receive an unlocking license that you’ll have to manually upload to your drone through your flight app. To do it in the DJI Go app, simply follow these steps:

  • Make sure your drone is connected to the GO app and launch the app.
  • Head over to the camera view and select General Settings.
  • Tap on Unlocking License then on “App” and “Sync” to download your license.
  • Tap on ‘Import to aircraft’ to update the license on your drone then tap on ‘aircraft’ and then on ‘Sync’.
  • Turn on the license.
  • Once the unlocking license is enabled, the unlocked flight zone will be shown in the app.
  • Once done flying in the restricted area, make sure to turn off the license.

Note that you can always  check your unlocking history by going to the “My Unlock NFZ Applications” within the Go app.

I’ve found this really good video which explains the process:

Downloading the unlocking license in DJI Fly App

The process is slightly different than it is in the DJI Go app, but overall follows the same concept. 

  • Make sure your drone is connected to the Fly app and remote controller, then launch the app.
  • Make sure that you are running the latest firmware and DJI Fly version, ensuring that FlySafe is up-to-date.
  • Make sure you have a stable internet connection.

Once done, it’s time to unlock your drone in DJI Fly:

  • In the DJI Fly app, go to your profile and log into your DJI account.
  • Head over to the camera view, tap on “show more” (…) located in the top-right of the screen.
  • Once in the safety tab, tap on Unlock GEO Zone
  • Head over to “Account Unlocking Licenses”, thentap on “Import to Aircraft” next to the “Flight Controller SN” text. A notification that reads “License Imported Successfully” will appear. (similar to the dji go app)
  • Tap on “Aircraft Unlocking Licenses” and activate “DJI Fly_circle” (by checking the switch on)
  • Hit “confirm” and “Agree”.
  • The switch on “DJI Fly_circle” will be checked in blue as it is now activated.
  • Once done, you’ll now be able to see that the once red area has become purple. Meaning you can fly in it without problems (provided you don’t exceed the specified max altitude).

Who Enforces Drone Laws in the US?

And that’s basically it for Geolocking. I think I’ve explained the process with as much detail as possible without making it confusing.

We’ve talked in depth about restricted areas and warning zones, but who actually determines which areas are no-fly zones (and punishes transgressions on them). That will be the FAA.

The FAA regulates drone use in the USA and only they have the authority to regulate drone use and enforce the laws regarding it. In fact, they’re the ones who created the drone laws in the first place.

So what happens if you fly your drone in restricted areas? You can expect a fine for sure, and possibly a temporary suspension of your drone. Should you fly in a restricted area and end up interfering with something important, expect more serious repercussions. In some cases, even jail time.

Conclusion

I’ve already talked about drone laws in the U.S in excruciating detail, if you want to read up more on that, head over here.

If you understand exactly what you need to do to fly in restricted and sensitive areas now, then this article has done its job. There are ways to actually lift the restriction off the drone without going through DJI… But that’s illegale. So yeah, don’t do that.

Here is a video from DJI themselves talking about geofencing, which I thought best to leave to the end. It’s a good conclusion to our article.

author-paul-posea-picture
Hi, I'm Paul.
A big drone enthusiast, reviewing, comparing and writing about drones since 2015. I'm all about helping people enjoy and even monetize their hobby.
paul posea
Paul Posea
Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.

Get a FREE Beginner Drone  Checklist

drone-preflight-checklist-free-graphic.png
This checklist is made so you can always make sure you bring the things and do what's important before you fly. 
LET'S GO!
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram