Drone regulations in the “Capital of Drones” Shenzhen wins applause

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Local authorities across China began rolling out new drone regulations. Wu Xi, a southeastern city in Jiangsu province and Sichuan already had such regulations. On September 7, Shenzhen’s Legislative Affairs Office followed suit by issuing Management Rules of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle(UAV) (Briefly, Shenzhen Guidelines) and solicited opinions from the public.

Shenzhen is known to more and more people as the “drone capital” for Shenzhen-based enterprises sell drones to all over the world.

Shenzhen government clarified that Shenzhen should be more inclusive and supportive of drone industry and strike a balance between ensuring safety and promoting the development of drone industry.

Shenzhen’s document set rules on managing no-fly zones for drones(model aircrafts included)through legislation.

Shenzhen government added: “cities have different rules on flight limits and no-fly zones. We hold that small and light drones flying at low altitude cannot endanger civil aviation safety as long as they are outside the clearance area of an airfield, 10 kilometers away from both sides of the runway, and 20 from both ends. Thus, we will not set a no-fly zone in these areas. Shenzhen, as a capital of drones, should be more inclusive and supportive of drone industry and strike a balance between ensuring safety and promoting the development of drone industry.”

Accordingly, the Management Rules regulate no-fly zones and flight restricted zones. It lists the clearance area, aviation route and lines in no-fly zones and the area within 10 kilometers from both sides of the runway and 20 kilometers from both ends in flight restricted zones where flight altitude is strictly limited. Meanwhile, for safety concerns, the no-fly zone list also includes Shenzhen’s party committee and government buildings, military control areas, supervision areas, telecommunications, water and energy supply, dangerous material storage facilities and areas within 100 meters of these facilities, areas holding major activities, transportation hubs, railway stations, bus stations, docks, ports and areas within these places.

The document regulates that drones are only allowed to fly in sight during the day, with its flight radius less than 500 meters. People who violate these rules will be fined 200-5000 yuan according to specific circumstances.

Shenzhen’s drone regulations draft won widespread applause from the drone industry. Shenzhen-based DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, praised that the Shenzhen government had a full discussion and made some tradeoffs based on fully studying drone safety issues, customers’ usage habits, and manufacturers’ productivity. The draft reflects Shenzhen government’s effort to solve safety threats, regulate the industry’s development, and granted users legal rights and convenience to fly drones. Yet, DJI also pointed out some parts of the draft needed a second thought and it would offer proper feedbacks after serious discussion.

The Paper summarizes major feedbacks in the following.

Which kinds of drones have been put under supervision? 

Earlier this year, UAVs were repeatedly reported of disrupting flight operation and threatened flight safety in Chengdu and Chongqing airports, bringing drone industry under the spotlight. The drone industry felt wronged because the offending flying objects were fixed-wing aircrafts in Chengdu airport and fixed-wing aircrafts and kites in Chongqing airport, and consumer drones including DJI drones were not involved in it. Yet, Shenzhen’s guidelines listed aerial vehicles with flight control module or model aircrafts that use satellite and image download assisted flight under supervision. Shenzhen government explained there is no difference between such model aircrafts and drones.

In addition, statements on the draft also pointed out authorities would hold targeted principle and supervise small and light drones weighing from 0.25 to 7 kilograms given that threats to civil aviation mainly came from consumer drones.

Are UAVs allowed to fly near airport? 

Local authorities have different rules on setting restricted zones and no-fly zones.

In a specification of Shenzhen’s guidelines, small and light drones flying at low altitude cannot endanger civil aviation safety as long as they are outside the clearance area of an airfield, within 10 kilometers away from both sides of the runway, and 20 from both ends. Thus, there is no need to set a no-fly zone in the above-mentioned areas. Actually, if all UAVs were forbidden within 20 kilometers from of both runways in some smaller cities, it would have huge impacts.

The specification said the guidelines distinguished restricted zones from no-fly zones. The guidelines list the clearance area, aviation route and lines in no-fly zones and the area outside the clearance area, the area within 10 kilometers from both sides of the runway and 20 kilometers from both ends in flight restricted zones where flight altitude is strictly limited, no higher than 30 meters from the ground and 150 meters from an airport’s standard.

When can drones fly? 

Except flying in a confined space like rooms or a net, drones should fly in sight during the day within 500 meters and lower than an altitude of 120 meters.

Some drone enthusiasts have dissenting opinions on the flight radius limit.

“the meaning of drone aerial shooting lies in ‘seeing the world from another angle’, yet strict restrictions on flight distance contradict drone’s features. Some SAR (search and rescue) drones cannot operate properly if their flight distance is limited within 500 meters.” DJI told The Paper.

Need we to apply for airspace? 

Previously, many public security bureaus required people to submit application to and get approval from air force or civil aviation control department before flying small UAVs. In Shenzhen’s guidelines, application in advance is needed only in two cases:

  1. to fly drones for on-site exploration, construction work, or aerial shot in a no-fly zone
  2. to fly drones at night or above the altitude as required in the guidelines

What are the punishments?

Among current civil aviation laws, administrative regulations and department rules, and documents of CAAC, only Civil Aviation Law of the People’s Republic of China, Management Rules of Civil Airports, the General Flight Rules of the People’s Republic of China, and Regulation on the Control of General-Purpose Aviation Flight involve rules on legal responsibilities, yet still drone flying violations are not mentioned. Though documents of CAAC regulate the management and operation of drones, they could not regulate punishments over violations due to limited authority.

The specification also said the authority should make clear legal responsibilities and mete out punishments through legislature. The Paper found fines for drone flying violations range from 200 to 5000 yuan.

A drone pilot who violates related regulations will be fined 1,000 yuan by a local public security bureau. He who violates rules of Public Security Administration Punishments Law will be punished accordingly.

A drone pilot who violates rules to modify, crack a drone or change its logo will be fined 1,000 yuan and ordered by public security bureau to correct the misbehavior.

An individual who violates rules by offering modified drones, services for cracking drone’s systems, or changing drones’ logo will be fined 1,000 yuan or 5,000 yuan for serious violations by public security bureau.

Is real-name registration needed? 

The Shenzhen guidelines mentioned that drone owners should register their names and mobile numbers through certificate activation. They should change or cancel the registered information timely if their drones were transferred, damaged, discarded, lost, or stolen. Drone manufacturers should send drone owners’ information to government service management platform in real time.

In terms of government service management platform, the guidelines further explained that drone manufacturers’ management platforms should dock with government service management platform, provide shared information according to regulations, and ensure information about ID, no-fly zones, and restricted zones consistent with that on government service management platform. Drone manufacturers should adopt measures to ensure drones have docked with government service management platform while the drones fly and assist relevant departments in supervising drones.

However, DJI suggests that the requirement for real-name purchase should be abolished. On one hand, consumer drones are mainly for personal entertainment. Moreover, some drones will be given to others as gifts so that buyers are not users. In comparison, real-name activation and registration can connect the user with the drone, making clear the legal responsibilities. On the other hand, enterprises that collect users’ information have to burden the risk of their information being leaked. It is not fitting and proper.

 

This article originally appeared in The Paper and was translated by Pandaily.

Click here to read the original Chinese article.

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