Drones, DJI and the Manufacturer-Regulated IOT Device

On Friday, the D.C. Circuit struck down the FAA's regulations on consumer drones, holding that the agency exceeded its statutory authority by regulating "model aircraft." Barring new developments or appeals, the ruling exempts drone hobbyists from compliance with the FAA registration and regulatory regime.

Today comes news from heavyweight drone manufacturer DJI, who will disable certain capabilities on customers' DJI-made drones unless the units are registered on the DJI website. Gizmodo's coverage is less-than-approving, leading with the headline that DJI is "crippling" its customers' drones.

Click through, though, and you'll see a more accommodating tone:

"This is actually a really responsible move on DJI’s part. By impelling customers to log in to their DJI accounts and activate the latest firmware for their drones, the company will be able to sync up each device with the specific regulations of the country where it’s being operated. (Note: Customers in China, where DJI is headquartered, won’t be required to go through this new activation process.)"


It's a new frontier of geo-specific compliance.

The always-on connection between manufacturer and device spans from those that passively collect personal information (ahem, Alexa), to web-connected consumer products with nifty -- and potentially dangerous -- functionality like DJI drones. It creates new capabilities for manufacturer self-regulation of the ways, and the places, their devices can be used.

Companies like DJI can tailor the operation of their devices to the legal and regulatory regimes that the devices are used in. Not all consumers view these safety- and compliance-oriented programs as "crippling" the affected devices. For manufacturers rolling out use parameters across many jurisdictions, the customer-communications strategy may be as important to brand trust and enterprise value as the compliance goals.