China can be considered almost like the “motherland” of modern drones, as most major manufacturers including DJI are located there. In my recent research for upcoming trips to China, I was wondering how regulations on this emerging topic look like in a bureaucratic and highly restrictive legal environment like China. To my surprise, China’s drone law is not only simple and very common-sense, but it is also modern, accessible and quite reasonable.
The current 2019 drone regulations for China mandate all drones weighing over 250 grams (which covers all of DJI’s products) to be registered with CAAC, the Chinese Aviation Administration. This simple online registration can be completed within minutes, and you have to mark your drone with a printable QR-Code which identifies your drone (see below).
Once registered, you are good to fly. There is a set of common-sense rules on how to operate your drone within safe limits that are mandatory for any pilot:
- Keep a Maximum Altitude of 120m above ground.
- Always maintain a visual line of sight (VLOS) to the aircraft. You are not allowed to use the image transmission of the drone’s camera for navigation.
- Obey restrictions and No-Fly zones around sensitive areas such as airports, certain cities, and military installations. In general, it is advisable to avoid crowded areas.
- Maintain sufficient liability insurance coverage to cover your obligations in case of an accident.
- Commercial flights need a separate registration with CAAC.
Registering a drone in China
The current regulations in China mandate every drone over 250 grams of takeoff weight to be registered with CAAC. There is a relatively simple online registration process that requires you to create a free account with CAAC (Chinese mobile phone number needed for sending a verification code). The entire process is in Chinese language but is really easy, so just ask a Chinese friend for help.
Flying drones in China
The current rules are reasonable and easily accessible also for foreigners. In practice, as in any country, respect other people’s privacy and stay clear of anything that might be sensitive. As always, when in doubt, it’s probably better not to fly.
Please be aware that Hong Kong has special drone regulations that are different from China, even though it is part of China.
OVERVIEW: Drone Law Directory