China has just adopted a pretty modern regulation, although partly confusing from a non-confusceen point of view, mainly not reading Chinese, in vue of developing the UAV’s Chinese industry.
This regulation is a composite one. On one hand it focusses in creating dedicated infrastructures (flight area), and a pole of UAV’s industrials starting to take its place in the international market.
On the other hand, it deals with UAV’s operators, creating a pilot’s license delivered after administrative file instruction to any candidate pilot.
Last, but not least, it specifies flights conditions with an authorization system.
While the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association -AOPA- estimates that there are some 10.000 professional UAV operators in China, with a fast growing rate, the CAAC, Civil Aviation Administration, requires that anyone who wishes to operate a UAV heavier than 7kg must obtain a licence. Shall the UAV be heavier than 116 kg, and operating in the integrated airspace, where manned aircraft also fly, the operator must have both a pilot’s license, and UAV certification.
In addition to that, it seems UAV’s flights in controlled area shall submit to approval in advance.
Applying this information with an occidental point of view, one can induce that UAVs under 7kg are not compelled to a Pilot’s license.
Else, weighing less than 116 kg allows them to fly without in-advance approval in case they would be operated in an integrated air zone, submitted to air control.
An interesting Chinese judicial precedent would explain this position: In December 2013, 4 operators of a fixed wing UAV were conducting a surveying and mapping operation to the east of the Beijing Airport without asking for in-advance approval. This flight induced a huge air panic, in December 2013. The 4 operators have been arrested and detained for the « crime of endangering public security » due to the consequences of this act: two planes were air miss and forced to deport, and many flights have been delayed until the air zone been cleaned. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-12/31/content_17207400.htm
>> Analysis: <<
To me, the main information is not that a non-authorized flight can be submitted to judicial prosecutions. Every country has the same logic, operating with OACI. What is interesting is that the indictment was not for illegal flight but mainly for endangering of the public (considering the insertion of this drone in the Beijing Airport Air Control Zone).
This leads to think that the non-authorized flight is not – per-se – a violation of law in China. Complementary Argument to consider that UAVs under 116 kg do not need in-advance authorization to operate in an integrated air zone.
Other explanation: the General Secretary of AOPO explains that the regulation on pilots’ licenses is a long term query. China will a take long time to deliver all the licenses asked from actual operators. The purpose of China is not to punish operators flying without licenses during the transition period. “The purpose of the new regulation is to put things in order, not to ban people from flying” said M. Zhang Fen, Secretary-General of AOPA. Such a pragmatic position is pretty similar to the US exoneration policy.
The Beijing incident is a perfect proof of this explanation, considering a complementary information published 8 months later, relayed with Le Figaro: http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-eco/2014/10/23/97002-20141023FILWWW00050-chineun-drone-prive-provoque-la-panique.php
Complementary information shows how high is the Chinese public reaction confronted to a thread to air security : Fighters took-off (2 fighters, 2 helicopters), and a massive land chase organized, involving 1.226 soldiers, 123 military vehicles and 26 specialized technicians to find and catch the trespassers.
Considering other countries reactions including France, for similar exactions, (unauthorized flights), it means that Chinese military reaction sits on security needs: public security and Civil Aviation users. It is not a change in the Chinese regulation spirit. It is still a in-advance authorization policy, with a very liberal pilot’s license.
Avocat, Paris Bar