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Chinese Military Cracking Down on Civilian Use of Drones

World's largest manufacturer in China, but sells abroad

The civilian use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV, commonly referred to as “drones”) in China will come under stricter monitoring by the Chinese military for having “threatened the safety” of Chinese aircraft.

People’s Liberation Army Air Force Colonel Shen Jinke said that in order to safeguard airspace security, the Air Force will enhance the management and control of small UAVs that fly at low altitudes and slow speeds. Shen added that some drone operations have threatened the safety of military, and even civilian aircraft.

China Daily reported a November 17 incident in which soldiers arrested a drone operator for operating in the vicinity of a Hebei military base without a permit. Also, an unapproved UAV flight resulted in delays of 18 flights at a Zhejiang airport, while another unapproved UAV flight delayed dozens of flights at Beijing airport.

All airspace in China is tightly regulated and controlled by the military. Last summer saw the shutdown of much of the airspace over China’s east coast for military exercises, while the September 3 military parade held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II transformed the entire airspace over Beijing into a no-fly zone for non-military operations that also banned the use of any UAVs.

In August China restricted the overseas sales of aerial drones out of fear such equipment could fall into the hands of militant groups.

This came a month after a Chinese-made UAV was shot down on the border between India and Pakistan. The drone’s manufacturer, Shenzhen-based DJI, emphasized that the drone shot down by Pakistani forces was not sold to any governmental body in particular.

DJI is the largest commercial drone maker in the world. Even though most of its sales are to the United States, the drone manufacturer recently opened its 8,600 square foot flagship store in a Shenzhen mall. Despite the many regulations and restrictions on drones in China, a DJI employee said the company is able to operate more freely in China due to a lack of regulations in the manufacturing industry.

DJI product manager Paul Pan said, “It’s easier to go out and just test and fly here. If you’re in the U.S., you have to get licensing to be able to do things commercially.”


Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor