China issues draft rules to regulate fledgling drone industry

A bird flying next to a drone.
A bird flying next to a drone.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's aviation regulator published on Friday (Dec 4) draft operating guidelines for the fledgling drone industry after several security breaches involving the unmanned aircraft.

The guidelines by the Civil Aviation Administration of China cover unmanned aerial vehicles weighing no more than 116kgs and include maintaining up-to-date records on remote pilots and providing data on the exact location of drones in heavily populated areas.

The guidelines, published on the regulator's website, also stipulate that drones must keep out of restricted airspace and follow unspecified rules set by the military and the government.

The regulator said it was seeking the opinion of industry experts on the guidelines before they become binding.

Wang Xiaobo, chief executive of privately owned drone maker Wuhan Airbird UAL Co Ltd, said the regulations were timely given the popularity of drones in post-disaster evaluation, cloud seeding and aerial photography, among other industries.

"We're already running drone pilot training sessions for our clients along with other partners," he said.

A civilian drone recently photographed a Chinese fighter jet mid-flight triggering widespread online debate about whether this constituted a security breach.

Two years ago, the air force shot down a drone that was photographing areas near Beijing airport. Three people were also arrested, the official People's Daily reported.