New, tiny, DJI Drone coming soon will have firmware-locked capabilities …

The evidence is mounting that Chinese owned DJI will be launching a new entry into their popular line of drones. While no official name for what the drone will be called off the shelf has been given, some specifications were uncovered that indicate the drone may be a successor to the Spark or perhaps a smaller standalone entry. Some have referred to it as a kind of “Mavic mini”, and . It is anticipated that the drone will have retractable arms similar to the Mavic series and something the Spark does not have.

FCC filings indicate that SZ DJI TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD – SS3 (China), or simply DJI, has been working to get the drone ready for American and other markets heading into the shopping season for Q4. The drone will be operated on WiFi bands similar to the Spark and Air drones currently in the DJI lineup.

The drone will feature a 4k camera capable of taking videos at 30 frames per second and a 12 MP sensor. The battery life is reportedly 18 minutes under ideal conditions with top speeds around 30 mph. Perhaps most importantly, the drone will be under 250 grams. This means that according to current FAA rules, and similar rules in some other countries, the drone will not need to be registered with the FAA.

Thus far, seemingly unreported, is a note made to the FCC in the filings for the drone. Xi Xiang, DJI project manager, writes this in a disclosed letter to the FCC:

“We, SZ DJI TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD, hereby declare that our product Mavic Mini, Model Number: MT1SS5 have the ability to work in 2.4G and 5G 4 frequency bands: 5150~5250MHz, 5250~5350MHz, 5470~5725MHz, 5725~5850MHz. For the purpose of marketing, the frequency of the product sold in U.S. are programmed and locked to work only in 5725~5850MHz. The other frequency bands 2.4G and 5150~5250MHz, 5250~5350MHz, 5470~5725MHz are disabled by firmware in factory. The end user or any other parties can not have the capability to activate the other frequency bands.”

Source: https://fccid.io/SS3-MT1SS51905 & https://fccid.io/SS3-MR1SS51905

As many are aware, the 5.8 GHz band is generally a higher quality band at short range but results in lower range on average than the 2.4 GHz band. This marketing tactic will make the drone less reliable when it comes to both the availability of uncongested WiFi frequencies with lower interference as well as reducing the functional range of the drone. The practice of “locking” capability in higher-end electronics is not new and is often designed to place a product strategically into a line of existing products without rendering other products in that line obsolete or less useful. But of course, it is unfortunate for drone users that some of the capabilities of the equipment they purchase is being artificially limited.

Logan Poole, FAA Part 107 Licensed Drone Pilot

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