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GROUNDED

DJI will hold its customers’ drones hostage until they update their software

By Mike Murphy

Owners of DJI’s latest consumer drone, the Spark, have until September 1 to update the firmware of their drone and batteries or they will not be able to fly them, the company announced Aug. 21.

The new software will improve stability and connectivity, as well as provide updates for the drone’s photo-capturing modes. It will also bring improvements to the Spark’s battery management system, which DJI said will “optimize power supply during flight.” As Quartz reported in July, some Spark owners have been complaining that their drones have been falling out of the sky mid-flight, and many suspected the issue to be related to the battery’s firmware.

Anyone who owns a Spark will have to update it before the end of the month, regardless of whether they’ve had any issues with their drone. ”DJI decided on the option of a mandatory firmware update in order to maximize flight safety and product reliability which we consider as top priorities,” the company said in its release.

Some question whether a company should have the ability to remotely disable products that consumers have bought and are enjoying—much like Nest did with a line of products it inherited from Revolv, a smart-home company it bought, that it no longer wanted to support. But when it comes to machines that could potentially drop out of the sky for no good reason, perhaps it’s not the worst idea.