China launches first ‘traffic rules’ for civilian drones

World Today

China’s Civil Aviation Administration issued its first regulations to operate light-duty civilian unmanned aircraft last month due to the remarkable increase in civilian drones being flown in the country.

In the last few years, drones have gained popularity in China. They have been widely used in the agricultural, environmental protection and disaster relief missions.

The “traffic rules” defines the “unmanned aircrafts” and categorizes drones into seven categories based on their weight and function, provides guidance on the roles of the captains and pilots, and procedure to apply for a flying mission.

“For those light and small consumer drones, the rules are relatively loose, so it will be convenient for ordinary people to play around,” said Ke Yubao, executive secretary general of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China, “But for those big and heavy business-purpose drones, the rules are more restricted, as they could cause more danger to people.”

Lately, there have been reports of an increasing number of drones disturbing civil aviation flights posing potential threats to people’s safety. The rules therefore specifically regulate the flying licenses required of potential pilots.

Industry data shows there are currently about 20,000 civilian drones being flown with about 100,000 people hoping to fly a drone. However, there are only 1,200 licensed drone pilots in China.

“Drones are not airplane models. They are much bigger and heavier. Even when a seven-kilogram one falls on the ground, it would not only smash but could also hit people. If people fly drones wherever and whenever they want, it would be a mess,” said Li Bin, who has passed the license test and now a coach with Beijing Tiantu Aviation Technology Company.

As more drones are being used for shooting videos, there have also been concerns about privacy of such footages. Experts are also urging for proper regulations to address this issue.