Rules ensure safe flight management, design, production and operation
China has issued a set of rules to govern the use of civilian drones.
The Provisional Regulations on the Flight Management of Unmanned Civilian Aircraft, made by the State Council and the Central Military Commission, were published on Wednesday and will take effect on Jan 1 next year.
The document covers the design, production, operation and application of drones. The rules are aimed at ensuring flight safety as well as public and national security and will help establish a science-based, well-regulated and efficient management system for drones, according to a statement from the government.
The regulations are expected to prevent security risks, and provide a legal foundation for the industry's development, the statement said.
According to the regulations, owners of drones will be asked to present identification when registering with the authorities, and those who use and operate drones should have certain qualifications.
The document stipulates that the national air traffic management agency will be the top authority in charge of flight management of drones, while other government organs — including civil aviation, public security, industry and information technology departments — will be responsible for specific work.
It also lists restricted airspaces for drones, including above airports, national borders, military bases, weapons factories, power plants, transformer substations, transport hubs, radar stations, and satellite control and tracking facilities.
A number of drone operations will be banned, including using drones to take pictures of military establishments and defense industry facilities, disrupt public order, or release illegal materials, according to the regulations.
As unmanned aircraft have become increasingly popular in China, their use has sometimes brought civilians and businesses into conflict with police, civil aviation and military authorities.
To authorities, the biggest security hazard comes from small drones, which often pose a substantial threat as their size makes them difficult to detect with radar.
It has not been uncommon that small drones are spotted flying near a military airport without authorization.
According to a statement published on Wednesday by the Ministry of Justice, the new regulations are tasked with strengthening the management of civilian drones and their operators, stipulating flight airspace, streamlining approval procedures, and improving supervision and emergency response mechanisms.
Chen Zhijie, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a top researcher on air traffic and airspace management, said on Wednesday that there are more than 1 million registered civilian drones on the Chinese mainland and they fly nearly 20 million hours each year. More than 15,000 enterprises on the mainland are involved in drone businesses while the number of drone owners exceeds 700,000.
"Thanks to technological advances and rising demand, unmanned aircraft have been widely used in many fields such as express delivery, emergency response and rescue, agricultural operations and forestry conservation, and aerial surveying. The new rules will help to fully unleash potential demand on the market.
"In addition, the regulations will better guide the design, production and use of civilian drones and reduce potential hazards," he said.
Hu Zhi'ang, former head of the National Inspection and Testing Center for Quality of Security and Alarm Systems in Beijing, said the regulations clearly stipulate the deployment and use of anti-drone equipment, which will avoid the negative impact from misuse of such devices.