The world’s most populous country may be headed for tougher rules on drones, as citizens and lawmakers become more concerned about the safety and privacy risks of recreational UAVs. “As drones have become more affordable, accessible and sophisticated, it is unsurprising that regulations have not kept up with operator trends and habits – particularly those of recreational users,” says an editorial in the South China Post. “But it is worrying that the sharp rise in recreational drone flying coincides with a number of reports of collisions and near misses between drones and passenger aircraft around the world.
“The potential for catastrophic consequences is obvious,” says the author.
The Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department has proposed a drone registration program similar to that in the United States and instituted by China in the spring of this year. Drones weighing more than 250 grams would be registered and education offered to operators; drones weighing over 7 kg would need to meet safety and insurance requirements. Operators who do not register could be subject to fines and penalties.
But Hong Kong lawmakers are urging aviation officials to act now to tighten drone regulations, rather than wait for the new programs to be enacted.
While some areas of the city, including the airport and harbor, are already designated as no-fly zones, officials are proposing a drone map which would clearly define restricted areas. In addition, lawmakers want privacy protections from camera drones. While the city is committed to supporting the commercial drone industry and services to consumers, the risk that recreational drones represent has become a problem for lawmakers. Reported incidents involving manned aircraft and security breaches have risen dramatically over the last year, and public concern has risen with them.
“It may just be luck that drones have yet to cause any serious mishaps in Hong Kong,” says the editorial. “The need for better education and regulation is evident.”