Let us update. Let us ignore. Let Us Drone. If you have owned a DJI drone for a while, there's a good chance that you have seen a “Precise “Fly Safe Database Update” notification pop up when you open the DJI GO 4 app. The million-dollar question is “should you hit update or ignore”?
The Precise Fly Safe Database Update is DJI's way of updating their no-fly zones by way of geofencing. This is not related to firmware updates on your drone or remote controller. Some people worry that updating the database will restrict them from flying in certain areas, while others are worried that pressing ignore will ground their drone. I'm going to walk you through the pros and cons of updating and ignoring this notification, along with a few workarounds if you have trouble updating.
What does the update do?
You guys may remember the story a while back about the guy who landed his Phantom on the White House lawn. DJI took a lot of heat for allowing their drones to be able to fly practically anywhere. There was a demand for DJI to incorporate some type of geofencing system that would prohibit their drones from entering certain airspace.
I remember DJI's view on the topic being a bit controversial. As I understand it, DJI didn't think it was their responsibility to find out what important landmarks and protected areas required no-fly zones in every country. I think that they also didn't want to put too many restrictions on drone pilots.
Since the United States is DJI's biggest customer, it would seem that DJI has begrudgingly obliged, and has since been providing these Fly Safe Database Updates on a regular basis.
Related post: How to Format the SD Card Within the DJI GO 4 App – If you haven’t spent much time in the world of technology, a term like “formatting” may sound all kinds of foreign to you. Put simply, formatting an SD card for your drone is the process of setting up a file management system so your camera will know where to place videos and images.
What is geofencing?
Geofencing is basically an invisible fence that keeps drones out of restricted airspace. GPS coordinates are used to tell the drone where it cannot fly.
If you are flying along and the Drone suddenly stops for no apparent reason, there is a decent chance you have entered a geofenced area. You will likely get a warning as well. With every fly safe database update, DJI is essentially inputting more GPS coordinates for where your drone is not able to fly.
The good part about staying on top of these updates is that you're less likely to accidentally fly somewhere where you're not supposed to be. The bad part is that you may not be able to fly at your favorite spot anymore.
We will get more into the pros and cons updating versus ignoring later in this post
How to check if I need an update?
If the fly safe database needs to be updated, you will most likely get a prompt when you initially turn on the drone, controller, and open up the GO 4 app.
You can also check to see if you need to update the database by going into your settings and tapping “about” at the bottom.
On the about page, you will see Precise Fly Safe Database (for Aircraft), Precise Fly Safe Database (for App), and Basic Fly Safe Database. Tap on “check for update” for each of these to see if an update is available. A prompt will appear which you can follow if an update is available.
Just a side note, the “Basic Fly Safe Database” update does not require you to connect your mobile device to the drone like the “Precise Fly Safe Database (for App)” does.
Related post: 28 Causes of Video Lag on DJI GO 4 and How to Fix It – Video lag while flying is the worst. This post dives into all of the possibilities for why that may be happening. This is a must read if you're having problems with your video!
Pros and cons of updating the fly safe database
Before I walk you through the process of updating the fly safe database, I want to talk a little about the pros and cons of doing this.
- You won’t have to tap that “ignore” button on that pesky notification anymore. Hey, that’s almost reason enough to update it ;).
- You won’t run the risk of being grounded if DJI one day decides to “punish” people who don’t update it.
- You will be less likely to accidentally fly somewhere where you’re not supposed to be.
- You may not be able to launch from your home or favorite takeoff location anymore.
- A newly geofenced area may cross a regular flight path of yours.
- The update may impede with your work if you’re using your drone for professional reasons.
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Will my drone be grounded if I don’t update the database?
DJI will occasionally ground your drone if it needs a firmware update, and people are concerned (for good reason) that their drones may be grounded if they press “ignore” too many times on the Precise Fly Safe Database prompt.
As of right now, DJI is not requiring you to update the fly safe database before launching. I wouldn't be surprised though if future updates require you to update the Fly Safe Database before taking off.
How many times can I “ignore” the update?
As far as I know, you can “ignore” the update indefinitely. I waited for about 6 months before finally giving in and performing the update.
DJI has not made a comment about the number of times you can ignore the update, and I have yet to see reports of people that we're forced to update their Fly Safe Database.
Updating may resolve video lag
There have actually been reports of people having less video lag after they update their fly safe database. I am not sure what the technical reason or this would be as there doesn't seem to be any correlation between geofencing and video transmission.
Maybe it's a form of subtle punishment from DJI for ignoring the update? Nevertheless, if you are having a lot of video lag and have seemingly tried everything else to eradicate it, maybe a fly safe database update is your solution. I wrote an in-depth article about reasons for video lag that you can find here, but I didn't include a Fly Safe Database Update as a potential solution for the problem because I didn't see it as a viable one at the time.
Here is a YouTube video of Ken Heron, a pretty hilarious, albeit respected drone pilot having success with eradicating video lag after updating the Fly Safe Database.
Receiving permission and unlocking geofenced zones
One of the big concerns drone pilots have that use their drones for work is that they will be unable fly in a necessary area if they update the Fly Safe Database.
If that does happen, all hope is not lost. A waiver can be granted by the FAA to allow that drone pilot to fly in a restricted area if they meet certain requirements.
Here is the FAA link that tells you how to go about obtaining a part 107 waiver.
Here is the link to DJI's site that gives you information on how to unlock a restricted zone once you have received your waiver from the FAA.
And lastly, here is a video that tells you how to unlock a geofenced zone after you have received permission to fly in the area.
How long should the update take?
I just updated the Fly Safe Database about an hour ago and the whole process honestly took about 2 minutes. I am using my home Wi-Fi, and my drone, controller, and app have all the latest updates.
How to update the fly safe database
Now that I have given you some of the pros and cons of updating the Fly Safe Database, here is how you go about performing the update.
You probably clicked on this blog post because you currently have that Fly Safe Database Update notification that pops up when you open the DJI go 4 app.
If that is the case then go ahead and tap on “go to Update” when the notification pops up, or you can go to settings>about>check for update.
The “Precise Fly Safe Database (for App)” is the notification that usually pops up when you start the DJI GO or GO 4 app (although, the “(for App)” will not be displayed. If I just confused the heck out of you, then…gold star for me! Fret not, it's not that confusing. The app will walk you through it.
First, tap on “Go to Update”.
This will take you to a screen that tells you what exactly the DJI's geofencing system is. Once you're thoroughly satisfied with your reading skills, tap “Download Now” at the bottom.
A message will pop-up that tells you to first turn on the remote controller, then connect the drone to your mobile device. I hope you didn't lose the USB adapter cable that came with the drone! Tap “OK” once you've done this.
Side note: I've seen people confused about having the RC on if it's not going to be connected to the mobile device as you usually do when preparing to fly. Don't worry, just leave the RC on and connect the mobile device to the drone.
The first time I tapped “OK”, nothing happened. Not sure what went wrong but after I went under the about section in the settings and initiated the update it worked the second time.
Go ahead and tap on your desk or bounce your knee while you wait for the download to complete. You'll get a notification saying that the update is complete and you'll be good to go!
What if the update is taking a long time?
There have been numerous reports of people that begin update but it seems to freeze and not complete. as I mentioned above, the update only took me about 2 minutes. If the update seems to be taking an unusually long time the first thing I would recommend is that you just wait a few more minutes. Hey, patience is a virtue, right?
If the entirety of your patience has been exhausted, then I have a few more steps that I recommend you take.
- Try restarting the drone, controller, and app.
- Is your internet connection slow? I would recommend using Wi-Fi since the data on your mobile phone isn't free. Try a different network if possible.
- Try using a different mobile device or tablet if yours doesn't seem to be working.
- Try updating the firmware on your drone, controller and app.
- Use the DJI Assistant 2 on your computer (I’ll go further into this process later).
Related post: DJI Drone CSC – What It Is and Why We Need It – CSC stands for Combination Stick Command and it refers to the method of starting and stopping the motors on a drone. You may have heard horror stories about CSC, and this typically stems from people who accidentally executed a CSC while in mid-flight.
What if I abort the update before it finishes?
You may be concerned that aborting an update before it finishes may cause some type of irreversible damage or glitch, but I have seen no reports of that happening.
What usually happens is the update simply does not happen and you need to start from the beginning again.
You will need to go under “about” in settings again and tap on “check for update”.
Use DJI Assistant 2 if the GO 4 app isn’t working
There have been many people that haven't been able to successfully update the Fly Safe Database using the GO 4 app, but have had success using DJI Assistant 2.
If you aren't familiar with it, DJI Assistant 2 is free software that has extra settings and capabilities that are either difficult, or impossible to perform on the GO 4 app.
You can download DJI Assistant 2 for your particulate drone model here.
Open DJI Assistant 2 once it's downloaded and you will be prompted if an update is available.
Restart everything after the update is complete
After completing the Fly Safe Database Update, it is highly recommended that you restart the drone, controller, and app. To ensure that you have indeed completed the update successfully, you can go back under the about section and tap on “ Precise Fly Safe Database” and you will see a “Latest Version” message if the update was successful.
I would say that the two biggest complaints that people have about DJI as a company is that their customer service needs some improvement and that they put too many restrictions on their drone users. I can't tell you how many times I've seen disgruntled ex-DJI drone users swear that they will never buy another DJI product because of the two aforementioned complaints.
I think that although those complaints are certainly not unfounded, we should appreciate what DJI has accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. They have to meet an extraordinary amount of demands, and I would say that they have done a pretty good job doing so. I’m certainly not saying that the company doesn’t need to improve, but I am still one-hundred percent convinced that they make the best product for the money for the broadest audience.
So, for the million-dollar question, “should you hit update or ignore”, it's a tough call. The responsible thing to do is hit “update”. I'd say that the update is inevitable, but if ignoring it makes you happy, hit that ignore button and get airborne!