The regulations governing flying drones, especially in the US, are not always perfectly clear. That being said, it’s generally not advised—and often times illegal—to fly drones anywhere near airports, or anywhere that planes tend to fly. Regardless, one hobbyist thought it would be fun to hack into their drone and try to fly it as high as they possibly could.
Popular Science reported Mar. 8 that an anonymous YouTuber called Tollymaster recently uploaded a video of a modified DJI Phantom 2 drone which they claimed to have flown to upwards of 11,000 ft—or 2 miles—into the sky. DJI drones have software built-in that prevents them from flying through restricted airspace (such as airports), or above 1,500 feet, meaning the pilot presumably hacked into the device’s software and overrode the factory settings. The US Federal Aviation Administration, for reference, restricts drones flying above 400 feet, though it’s unclear where this video was filmed.
While the footage that they recorded was pretty spectacular, it’s quite reckless to have done this in the first place, seeing as the drone is ranging out of the pilot’s line of sight (which is another requirement of the FAA), and into territory that airplanes could be taking off or landing, or helicopters might be operating in. That’s not to mention that if the battery had died—or the pilot had lost the ability to control the machine at that height, the resulting drone-shaped meteorite would’ve been a disaster for anyone in the impact zone.
Tollymaster removed the video from YouTube after a spate of comments from other drone hobbyists berating their unsafe flying. However, a Dutch blog called DroneWatch snagged a copy of the video before it was taken down, if you want to watch the Phantom’s flight in full.
It’s unlikely that this sort of behavior would be very well received by regulatory bodies like the FAA, seeing as people are already crashing drones into stadiums and presidential residences, hindering firefighting operations, and strapping weapons to them for fun. While some are working on building drones to deliver medicine to those in need and save lives in remote areas, reconfiguring these machines to allow them to enter airspace this high won’t help convince people that drones are more helpful than dangerous.