China’s State Council and Central Military Commission, its military top brass, yesterday announced that the country’s first regulation governing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will take effect on January 1, 2024.
The regulation, entitled Provisional Rules on UAV Flight Management, was passed at an executive meeting of the State Council, or the cabinet, in April this year.
The regulation, the first of its kind in China, includes a set of rules concerning all kinds of UAV-related activity.
They span design and manufacturing, airworthiness management, real-name registration, airspace and flight management, and mandatory insurance.
Under the new regulation, UAV activity will become a matter of “public and national security,” thus in need of being regulated to promote the healthy growth of this industry.
Drones have proliferated across China, applied both for personal use and for industry-oriented purposes.
Their widespread adoption came amid heightened concerns about the risks they pose to aviation and public security.
Over the years, mounting fears about drones being used to spy on military and government targets have led to calls for restrictive measures.
Aside from a notable focus on national security, the UAV regulation also stands out with its emphasis on maintaining an independent industrial chain, with key components and technologies to be sourced at home.
This is presumably to keep out foreign influences over domestic firms.
It was decided at the State Council meeting in April that efforts ought to be made to ramp up work on a regulatory framework and build up regulatory capacity.
Somehow, it’s unclear which department or law enforcement agency will be responsible for implementing the regulation at the local level.
State media have largely hailed the move as a positive development, saying it puts pressure on UAV builders to adopt more stringent safety standards and ensure the quality of their products.
The drone operator will also be subject to requirements to prepare a more detailed flight plan beforehand and follow more strict flight standards.
The costs of drone use also threaten to go up as the regulation makes it obligatory to buy insurance policies to indemnify against possible damage.
As of 2022, China’s UAV industry output added 34% to exceed 100 billion yuan (US$13.79 billion) for the first time.
According to Frost & Sullivan, by 2024 the nation’s industry-grade drone market is expected to reach 150 billion yuan.
A breakdown suggests that the market for drones employed in agriculture and plant protection, police surveillance, electricity inspection, logistics and geographical mapping, will be worth 31.8 billion yuan, 20 billion yuan, 20 billion yuan, 25.5 billion yuan and 44.8 billion yuan, respectively.