Drone flying

Chinese drone enthusiasts must pass test to acquire licence

China’s Civil Aviation Authority has recently introduced tighter civilian drone regulations, which forbid flying near airports and require operators to pass tests and pay a fee to qualify for a licence.

Previous government regulations prevented drones from flying above a certain height and straying into sensitive areas, such as Tiananmen Square.

The new regulations were introduced in May to prevent civilian drones straying into the flight paths of manned aircraft. The government set an end-of-August deadline for civilians who own drones to register their devices, under their real names.

Since unveiling the regulations, China’s Civil Aviation Authority has created no-fly zones around civilian airports. Chinese drone makers such as DJI Technology Co, which owns 70 per cent of the global unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market, are cooperating with the new regulations by implementing geofencing, which prevents drones from flying into potentially dangerous areas.

Civilians may use drones for capturing film and photographs, for recreational use (such as racing or ‘droneboarding’) and to enhance other hobbies.

Now, acquiring an official civilian UAV operating licence costs approximately ¥10,000 (£1,170). The cost of the qualification is sure to cause frustration among drone enthusiasts, particularly as regulations are likely to continue changing as the technology develops and becomes more widespread.

“They don’t know when the next regulation will be introduced,” Hao Jiale, the manager at a DJI drone store based in Shenzen, told Reuters. “Some people want to wait and see.”

Last week, a test flight base opened in Shanghai, which will test drone operators on practical elements, such as take-offs and landings, and controlled flying below the legal height limit.

“A drone is not a toy,” said Yang Nuo, the principal of a northern Beijing drone training school. “It involves complicated aerial theoretical knowledge.”

China is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial UAVs and, despite tightening restrictions on civilian drone operations, has seen an annual growth rate of 68 per cent in five years. According to Xinhuanet, there are almost twice as many registered drones in China as in the US.

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