Drone Laws in China

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the People’s Republic of China

Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC)


UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in China

The Chinese agency responsible for drone safety, CAAC, has provided several internet-accessible details on flying for fun or work. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the link above.

Are drones allowed in China?

According to CAAC, drone use is allowed in China, subject to CAAC regulations. Read on for more details.

Here are the most important rules to know for flying a drone in China:

Drones are allowed in China under the following conditions: 

Maximum altitude: 120m (400ft); anything higher necessitates a CAAC commercial license. Most drones, including the famous DJI brand, automatically set the maximum altitude to 120m and warn you if you manually adjust the maximum altitude settings. 

Maximum Distance: China, like many other countries, requires your drone to have a VLOS, or “Visual Line of Sight.” To put it another way, you must fly with your drone in sight. 

Maximum Weight: China requires real-name drone registration for drones weighing more than 250 grams (.55lbs). Any drone weighing more than 7kg (15lbs) requires a special CAAC license. And, yes, because the DJI Mavic Mini weighs less than 250 grams, you do not need to register it.

China Drone Permits 

  • All drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) weighing more than 250 grams (g) must be registered. Recreational drone use necessitates this. 
  • A commercial drone license is necessary for any operator or business that wishes to use a drone for commercial purposes in China. 
  • If you want to apply for a commercial drone flight permit in China, you must meet the following requirements: 
  • In China, a legal business entity whose legal representative is a Chinese citizen.
  • This legal entity must already own at least one registered drone with the Aviation Authority. 
  • You must purchase liability insurance to cover the use of the drone. 
  • The drone operator must be certified through a Chinese government-approved training program.

Registration

  • You must register any drone weighing more than 250 grams (0.55 lb.) with the CAAC. 
  • Registration requires the individual’s personal information as well as information about the drone and its intended use. You will need to provide the following: 
  • The proprietor’s name 
  • A valid personal identification number (such as ID or passport number) 
  • Telephone number and e-mail address 
  • The model number of the product 
  • Serial No. 
  • What the drone will be used for (objective)

Once your drone is registered, you must print the registration sticker with the QR code and attach it to your drone. 

Registration may require knowledge of the Chinese language and possession of a Chinese mobile phone number.

Licensing

Situations that require CAAC licensing: 

  • Any drone weighing between 7 kilograms (15 pounds) and 116 kilograms (256 pounds) requires a CAAC license. 
  • The CAAC must license all drones used for commercial purposes. 
  • A pilot’s license and UAV certification are required to operate any drone weighing more than 116 kilograms (256 pounds).

No-Fly Zones

China’s NFZs, or “No Fly Zones,” apply to all drones. These zones encompass the area surrounding airports, military bases, and specific cities such as Beijing and sensitive areas such as Xinjiang and Tibet. 

While DJI drones are programmed not to fly in these NFZs (although there are hacks to circumvent this), many other drone brands require you to consult the China No Fly Zone map to determine whether drone flight is permitted. You can obtain permission to fly in an NFZ through the CAAC.

Insurance

According to China’s drone regulations, operators must insure themselves against liability to third parties.

Additional Note For Foreign Operators

China is still highly suspicious of foreigners, even more so if you fly outside the city. 

In these instances, the best course of action is to move to a less conspicuous location to begin flying your drone. Avoid attracting attention to yourself, and you’ll be less likely to encounter trouble. 

Although it appears that foreign pilots are not required to register (exception: DJI drones), we recommend that you confirm this with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) before traveling to China. 

DJI drones are an exception. Once in China, regardless of your country of origin, a message requesting registration appears. As a result, DJI pilots cannot avoid registration.


Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in China

China classifies drones according to their weight (empty weight vs. total weight):

Class 1 = less than 1.5 kg

Class 2 = between 1.5 kg & 4 kg (empty) or 1.5 kg & 7 kg (full)

Class 3 = between 4 kg & 15 kg (empty) or 7 kg & 25 kg (full)

Class 4 = between 15 kg & 116 kg (empty) or 25 kg & 150 kg (full)

In China, you do not need a permit or a license to fly a drone. However, if your drone weighs more than 250 grams, you must register it before taking flight in China. 

There are a few rules to follow within the permitted zones:

  • Fly at a maximum altitude of 120 meters and a maximum distance of 500 meters from you. 
  • Fly away from clouds (120 m) and keep a clear line of sight at all times. 
  • Fly at a speed of less than 100 kilometers per hour.
  • Fly a drone that electronically records your flight path. 
  • Avoid flying near urban areas and densely populated areas (30 m away & 10 m vertically). 
  • Operate a drone weighing less than 7 kilograms (you will need a license above that).  
  • Depart from airports and heliports and give priority to all other aircraft categories. If you see another aircraft during your flight, make a hasty landing. 
  • It is prudent to obtain insurance that covers all risks. 
  • Inquire before flying over any governmental, religious, police, or military installations. 
  • Possess third-party liability insurance for your drone. 
  • Do not operate your drone while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Notes for Commercial Drone Services operations in China

China classifies drones according to their weight (empty weight vs. total weight):

Class 1 = less than 1.5 kg

Class 2 = between 1.5 kg & 4 kg (empty) or 1.5 kg & 7 kg (full)

Class 3 = between 4 kg & 15 kg (empty) or 7 kg & 25 kg (full)

Class 4 = between 15 kg & 116 kg (empty) or 25 kg & 150 kg (full)

To operate a drone for commercial purposes in China, you will need a license to fly the drone. 

If you intend to spray anything from your drone, you must adhere to a lengthy and detailed set of rules that can be acquired directly from the CAAC. For instance, your drone must weigh less than 5,700 kg and fly at a distance of less than 15 meters from the sprayed surface. 

Drone insurance is required for both commercial and private drone flights. Registration is required. 

You must respect other people’s privacy.


Useful published information on flying drones in China

Here is a sample of what you might expect if you follow the drone laws and fly in China…

NOTE: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model aircraft, toy aircraft, Remote controlled aircraft, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.


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IMPORTANT NOTE

The content on this site is collated by volunteers from public general information. This material is not presented as legal advice of any kind, and we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Do not substitute the information you find here for legal advice from a licensed attorney who is authorized to practice in the jurisdiction. When in doubt, contact the local aviation authority responsible for drone safety, utilize a licensed drone service operator, and/or consult a qualified attorney.

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