Flight Supervision vs. ‘Free’ Soaring Unmanned aircraft need flight licenses
In recent years, with the explosive growth of the civil UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) market, civil UAVs have entered a period of rapid development. However, the supervision and control of UAVs have fallen behind their technical development. Such factors as ‘unlicensed flight’, misoperation, unfamiliarity with relevant laws and regulations, unpredictable malicious intent and so on have threatened national public security, flight security and air defense security. Therefore, on July 11th, 2016, the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s Department of Flight Standards revised the Interim Administrative Provisions on Civil UAV System Pilots, and released the Administrative Provisions on Civil UAV Pilots (hereinafter referred to as the ‘New Provisions’). What do UAV users think about the provisions on the UAV register and the flight license requirement of the New Provisions? In this issue of Consumer Electronics, we hold a dialogue with UAV users!
The Civil Aviation Administration of China Releases the Administrative Provisions on Civil UAV Pilots.
We often associate flying with such positive words as ‘dream’, ‘freedom’, etc. ‘Flying’ is a word full of energy. Freedom, relaxation and pleasure characterize the flight experience favored by most UAV users. However, ‘Nothing can be accomplished without standards’. To standardize the administration of UAV pilots, the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s Department of Flight Standards has revised the Interim Administrative Provisions on Civil UAV System Pilots. The New Provisions has revised ‘Civil UAV System Pilots’ of the previous title into ‘Civil UAV pilots’, adjusted the classification and definition of UAVs, added an administration and registration system of the administrative organization, and canceled some of the operating requirements.
Register丨Acquiring a legally registered license for your ‘aircraft’
The New Provisions performs the classified administration of UAV system pilots, and adds an administration and registration system. According to the operating requirements of Class I & II (below 7 kg), pilots can register in the UAV cloud system. The registration contents should include the pilot’s accurate identity information and the UAVs model, and an online laws and regulations test should also be passed.
Upon registering, the aircraft holder should take their ID card, aircraft purchase invoice, product certificate, etc. to the local police station at the place of census registration or temporary resident permit in order to handle the relevant registration procedures and sign the liability statement. Moreover, the police also requires that the transfer and change of the holder must be registered at the local police station. Users who violate the relevant laws and regulations shall be punished by law.
Examination丨Building a standardized pilot administration system
The New Provisions stipulates that the industry association should build a pilot examination system and standardized examination process to realize the full-process electronic real-time monitoring of the training and examination of pilots; and build a pilot administration system to keep a management and statistics record of flight experience and illegal traffic penalties in operation and training during the licensed period.
In April 2015, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China (AOPA) obtained the qualification administration rights of UAV pilots authorized by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, with the scope of administration covering pilots of UAVs flying within visual range with an empty weight of more than 7 kg, or flying beyond visual range in segregated airspace. The period of authorization is between April 30th, 2015, and April 30th, 2018. AOPA is not a civil servant organization, so a training certificate of qualification issued by AOPA is not an official flight license. Prior to unveiling the relevant laws, the training certificate of qualification is equal to the flight license.
Strategy丨 UAV flight license examination guide
First step: determine the model
The most common UAVs are multi-rotor aircraft, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. First, determine the flight license you want to train for according to the model. Fixed-wing aircraft are independent. Multi-rotor aircraft and helicopters have the same operating mode, but helicopters have a relatively higher operating difficulty. As such, pilots holding the unmanned helicopter flight license can fly multi-rotor aircraft, but pilots holding the multi-rotor aircraft flight license cannot fly unmanned helicopters.
Second step: determine the level
The UAV flight license is divided into three levels: pilot, aircraft commander and flight instructor. The pilot level is the most fundamental flight license. Common amateurs only need a pilot certificate. The aircraft commander level is relatively high with the right of disposal. If you want to work in the commercial services of UAVs, the aircraft commander certificate will bring you better development. If you want to become a UAV flight instructor, you must have at least 100 hours of flight experience and an aircraft commander license.
Third step: registration
The qualification requirements for AOPA UAV pilots are as follows: they must be aged above 17 years old, hold a junior high school degree or above, observe the rules and obey the laws, be free of any misconduct, provide a statement of a clean criminal record, have correct visual acuity above 1.0, and be free of color blindness and amblyopia, infectious diseases, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, mental diseases, extremity disabilities and bad habits.
Tips: The training institutions listed on the official website of AOPA are qualified independent institutions authorized by AOPA. The price is determined by the training institutions. You should prepare the money for the charge according to your choice of training institution.
Registered approval + licensed flight – restriction or protection?
The users have something to say
The mainstream groups of the domestic consumer-grade UAV market are UAV users and aerial photo amateurs. Does the New Provisions constitute restriction or protection? UAV fans have deep and heartfelt feelings on this issue, and their voices should be heard.
Mr. LI｜Phantom 3 Professional
In recent years, the number of domestic UAV users has increased sharply, and this can also be seen in the sales volume of such famous brands as Shenzhen Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI). Moreover, the numbers of members of WeChat groups, QQ groups, forums and BBS for UAVs are continuously increasing. UAVs are now owned by many ordinary people. This is a positive signal, indicating that the industry is rapidly growing with full vigor. However, there are some problems, and the most important is hidden dangers.
I think the main reason behind the frequent accidents involving UAVs is that some operators fail to comply with the flight security guide. Prior to flight, they fail to check if the propeller is damaged or worn, or if the battery and other components need to be replaced or repaired; they fly the aircraft over densely crowded places, seek greater flight heights for excitement, and even fly the aircraft beyond their visual range. I frequently see such ‘aircraft fans’ around me.
The national standardization of UAV flight is a good thing. The registration and flight license system can prevent and control safety accidents to a certain extent, but it also has some flaws; for example, registered flight must be approved, even for some exceptional cases, and this restricts the freedom of flight. Although the flight license is only applicable to large-sized UAVs, the license itself cannot indicate the proficiency of the holder’s operating skill. Moreover, the flight license is expensive and difficult to obtain. I hope to work in the UAV flight industry, so I want to obtain a flight license. It is very important for practitioners. The provisions for the registration and flight license seemingly restrict our freedom of flight, but they also protect us and bring us a better flight atmosphere and environment. In my opinion, with the perfection of the policies, this industry will develop in a better and more orderly way.
Mr. WU｜ Parrot Bebop 2
Although I think that this policy is very good, I also think it will be difficult to implement according to the current domestic situation. The reason is that most domestic users are amateurs, and it is difficult to supervise them. For such professionals as aerial photographers, this flight license is likely to be attractive and influential, but it is not important to common users. Moreover, many ‘aircraft fans’ think that the charge for the flight license is too high. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, no one will obtain the flight license.
The real-name registration is non-mandatory. Moreover, it does not yet take many actual situations into consideration, and only puts forward some requirements for users. Nobody knows the consequences of such a register. After the cloud system registration, the flight data can be uploaded in real time, which will bring us the feeling of being monitored and make us feel a kind of responsibility, so it still has a long way to go.
I think that, in the prevention and control of UAV flight security, technical promotion should be more effective than flight restriction and prohibition. Currently, most UAV accidents are caused by unstable flight control, which can make the aircraft suddenly fall. As such, attention should be paid to restrictions on users as well as to the quality and R&D of the aircraft technology.
Mr. WANG｜ Phantom 4
The flight license is only applicable to UAVs above 7 kg. Those below 7 kg are mainly monitored by the trial ‘U Cloud’ system. Such a cloud system can upload the real-time flight data of UAVs, such as track, height, speed, position, direction, etc., and orientate the UAVs. We are in the preliminary stage at which companies are first accessing the system. Most companies, even the industrial giant Shenzhen Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), do not yet have access the system.
China has placed stress on the supervision of UAVs. It has been said that a real-name purchase system is likely to be implemented in order to benefit the implementation of the register. But it seems that the aircraft is monitored from its purchase. The lack of open flight airspace greatly frustrates the enthusiasm of users. Most aircraft fans around me don’t want to participate in training for flight licenses, or they have no idea about the license system. Moreover, most users are amateurs, and they do not see obtaining a flight license as a necessity. For aircraft practitioners, the flight license is significant. As for the real-name register, there are different opinions. On the one hand, it can guarantee the flight security of aircraft to some extent. On the other hand, it will introduce too much monitoring and restriction.
According to the market response to the ‘U Cloud’ system, the UAV flight license and real-name register systems are not well-received. The main reason is that the domestic UAV market is still in its initial stage of development. With the maturity of the industry and the market, the supervision standard will be further perfected. In the future, the maturity of intelligent UAV technology will also prevent flight accidents to a great extent.
Mr. QIAO｜ BriSky AIRobot
Currently, small-sized multi-rotor aircraft users rarely register, and 90% of flights for plant protection and aerial photos are unlicensed. I think the main reasons behind this are as follows:
- Any post-registration flight must apply for airspace, and applications for airspace are charged. Moreover, most people know nothing about the charge details.
- The procedures for airspace application and flight approval are very complex, and the duration of the whole coordination and approval process is uncertain. In most cases, the flight application is not realistic; for example, if you have a helicopter and you only want to perform a trial flight, the flight application is too troublesome.
- The aircraft owned by most individual users are assembled from the frame, motor, battery, etc., which are bought from different places. Such aircraft can’t be registered. If the aircraft is a finished product bought from a company, the aircraft must be registered because of the tax revenue, which can be searched.
- Registration means responsibility. Current UAVs have no insurance, and they lack various support.
The function of the flight license of UAVs is same as that of the driving license. It only teaches you how to operate UAVs. In fact, even if you obtain a flight license, there’s no guarantee that you can pilot a UAV well. The piloting skill of UAVs depends on operation. Even if the flight license has been obtained, you will only know some theories and simple operating modes. Aerial survey, line inspection and plant protection companies should obtain a flight license, because they must apply for airspace for their flights. In general, private plant protection aircrafts have no flight licenses, and do not apply for approval. If I use an aircraft to spray pesticide over a few acres of my own land, is it necessary to apply for approval? The craft only flies within a range of several meters, with a flight height of 1-2 meters over the plants, so it seems the airspace restriction is not at all necessary. For ordinary users, the flight license is not indispensable.
In truth, UAVs priced below RMB 1,000 should strictly be controlled due to their high fault rates. Such aircraft should be restricted in their flight height, even in some empty places. Moreover, the laws and regulations require fine-tuning. Registration should be carried out according to actual situations, and the corresponding provisions should be given for each case.
Some points concerning ‘unlicensed flight’
‘Unlicensed flight’ means that the pilot has not obtained a UAV flight license, and the UAV has not obtained an airworthiness certificate, without the market access qualification. Most civil UAVs in the current market weigh within the range of 2 kg to dozens of kg. In case of any misoperation, the aircraft will fall from the air within a height range of dozens of meters to more than 100 meters, and this can clearly cause casualties. The ‘unlicensed flight’ of UAVs brings hidden dangers to the lives and property of the people, and threatens public security.
Interpretation of a lawyer:
YANG He / Senior Partner of the Greenleaf Law Firm
The pilot (manipulator) of a UAV is the holder and operator of that UAV. Whether the pilot has obtained a flight license or not, the pilot should bear the corresponding legal liability in the case of a liability accident. For example, if the aircraft causes property losses or casualties, the owner should bear the civil compensation liability, or even criminal liability. If the aircraft intrudes on a no-fly zone in violation of the provisions, even such an intrusion does not cause any property losses or casualties, the owner will be held to have violated certain administrative provisions, and they will be given administrative penalties (fine, detention, etc.). If an aircraft enters a military administration zone and its presence compromises national military secrets, the consequences are unforeseen.
Unmanned aircraft users should obtain a flight license and enhance their piloting level in accordance with the New Provisions, thereby guaranteeing that UAVs can be piloted on the premise of technical proficiency. UAVs should be maintained frequently in order to guarantee their airworthiness. When piloting UAVs, users should pay attention to public security and avoid densely crowded area as far as possible. Moreover, they should be absolutely sure not to enter air traffic control zones in order to avoid creating hidden dangers for manned aircraft, and they should be absolutely sure not to enter national defense and military administration zones.
Conclusions: A fast-growing special industry with a dream of voyaging to the skies will inevitably experience an extraordinary development story. The domestic UAV industry is in its primary stage of development, and its number of consumers is increasing sharply. However, the industrial standards are not yet perfect, and the handling and guidance protocols for emergencies have not yet been determined. To demonstrate the positive development appearance of this exciting industry, manufacturers, users, government sectors and so on should make concerted efforts to explore ‘the broad road to the sky’.