DJI limit drones’ range if you are not in the US!

On DJI drones the GPS location is used by the aircraft/remote control to adjust the power output of the signal transmission to meet the local regulations. In the US, the governing body is FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in Europe it’s CE (Conformité Européenne). Doing that allows DJI to sell the same device in both markets.

In case of Phantom 3 Standard, when I say “power output” I mean both the 2.4GHz link – the bi-directional communication between the aircraft through the remote control, and the 5.8GHz control signal – one-way link to the aircraft.

FCC seem to be far more generous and allow for higher levels of power output by consumer devices. CE, on the other hand, are more strict in that regard. What this means is that, if a DJI drone detects that it’s outside of the US, it automatically applies the CE standards, even though you might not be in Europe. It either goes by FCC or by CE regulations. How and when exactly this limitation is applied is somewhat of a mystery to me (I’m still researching this topic, so please do let me know in the comments if you know the specifics). This lowers the power output of the transmission on both, the aircraft and the the remote control from 27 dBm to 17 dBm – almost by 40%! Inevitably that results in reduced range for those of us operating our drones outside of the US.

According to the documentation in FCC mode the maximum range is 1 km, in CE mode it’s only half of that – 0.5 km!

The good news – there is a way to adjust those levels back and even increase them slightly (all the way up to 30 dBm).

The bad news – you can only adjust the 2.4 GHz spectrum – the video feed. You can’t do anything about the 5.8 GHz link. Nevertheless, this is better than nothing.

By far the easiest way is to use Icarus application which, unfortunately, is only available on the Android platform. Apart from changing the transmission power output you can also change WiFi channels. I’m not so familiar with the other application, apparently it requires you to physically connect your drone to a computer.

Icarus Phantom 3 (£4.99) –

Magic Power (free, supports PC and Mac) –

I have no affiliation with the above applications and don’t stand to gain financially by mentioning those products

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