China Wants to Ban Drone Delivery

China said its detection and collision-avoidance systems on small drones are not good enough to avoid dense building clusters and electric wires.

The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) will publish in Dec. 2015 provisional rules governing the use of small civilian drones, according to China Daily. Under the new rules, all drones must be registered with the CAAC, while operators must submit flight plans before launching any drone flights.

Drones that weigh between 25 and 150 kilograms can be flown only after the CAAC has certified their airworthiness. Drones that are lighter than 25 kilograms and flown below 150 meters (490 feet) will be exempt.

“Currently, there are several CAAC regulations that govern the use of civilian drones, but most of them lack specific and practical rules,” Ke Yubao, executive secretary-general of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China, told China Daily. “The new regulation will set clear rules on which flights are legal and which are not permitted.”

The new laws also look to ban drone delivery in congested urban areas. “China’s detection and collision-avoidance systems on small drones are not good enough and still need improvement to avoid dense building clusters and electric wires,” Ke said. “A collision or crash would compromise the safety of people on the ground.”

These regulations could be a blow to eCommerce players in China. Alibaba, for example, tested drone delivery in Feb. 2015 when it delivered ginger tea packets to 450 customers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou over a three-day period starting Feb. 4.

There have been a few incidents in China recently involving drones that have led to these regulations. Two years ago, the air force shot down a drone that was photographing areas near Beijing airport. Three people were arrested. And a civilian drone recently photographed a Chinese fighter jet mid-flight, which sparked debate about whether this was a security breach.

China’s regulations haven’t been passed yet, so things could certainly change. But China’s regulatory push comes as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prepares to implement a drone registration system that will require any drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and more than 250 grams be registered. The registration is tied to the owner, and each registrant will have a single registration number that covers any drone they own.

Amazon released a video update of its Prime Air drone delivery service, teasing online shopaholics in the United States. Amazon’s delivery drones will weigh about 50 pounds, fly under 400 feet, and carry packages weighing up to five pounds. The drone in the video could fly up to 15 miles and deliver a package within 30 minutes.

Amazon said it already has more than a dozen delivery drone prototypes that would work in different environments. They’ll use “sense and avoid” technology, including vehicle-to-vehicle communication, GPS, and Wi-Fi, to detect hazards in flight as well as no-fly zones and other alerts.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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