DJI Will Brick ‘Spark’ Drones That Don’t Update to New Firmware

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Chinese manufacturer DJI rules the market for consumer drone aircraft, but you’ve traditionally had to spend big in order to get features like HD cameras and long-distance communication. The Spark drone aircraft, which launched a few months ago, packs premium features into a smaller, cheaper package. However, owners of the drone will need to upgrade their firmware soon or risk their drone turning into a non-flying brick.

Issuing firmware updates for drones is nothing new. DJI has done it in the past to improve functionality, and it’s even taken a heavy-handed approach in the past. A firmware update earlier this year was mandatory for anyone who wanted to actually use the drone as intended. There are legal restrictions on where you can fly drones, and the firmware update made sure drones didn’t break those rules. However, refusing to update to that firmware would only limit your drone to a 50-meter radius and 30-meter altitude. The company is treating this one much more seriously.

The new update for the $500 Spark aircraft includes improvements to the flight and takeoff stability, as well as adding support for DJI’s VR goggles. The reason for all the aggressive behavior is the tweaked battery firmware in this update. Owners of the Spark have been reporting rare instances where the drone loses power during flight and falls out of the sky. That’s not just a recipe for a busted drone, but it could cause serious injury to anyone on the ground who might be in the way.

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So, the company says it will remotely kill any Spark drone that has not been updated by September 1st. You don’t want to put this update off until a later date, either. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to revive the drone after missing this deadline. DJI will probably create an update for those who miss the cutoff, but there’s no guarantee on that.

Bricking drones is an aggressive step to take, but DJI is really between a rock and a hard place. It has to ensure its devices comply with a myriad of overwrought regulations on drone aircraft around the world. Leaving a drone in operation that could drop from the sky at any moment is likely to upset regulators. The update can be performed via the DJI GO 4 app as long as your device is connected to the internet. There’s also a desktop client called DJI Assistant that can update the drone.

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