Hong Kong’s main English language newspaper, the South China Morning Post (SCMP), today called for clear guidelines around the use of drones in Hong Kong. Coming on the back of security concerns surrounding an alleged plot to use a drone to disrupt a state leader’s visit to Hong Kong by a political activist, the opinion piece suggests the Hong Kong Government start formulating guidelines around the use of drones, for both recreational and commercial purposes.
Currently drones lighter than 7kg used for recreational purposes are be considered to be model aircraft, and do not require approval by the Civil Aviation Department.
Flying drones lighter than 7kg for professional or commercial purposes, however, does require CAD approval via an application process, which is only granted with a proper flight plan, and proof that the aircraft is operated by a ‘qualified’ pilot. The CAD currently recognises the UK-based BNUC-S Certification for drone pilots.
While the SCMP op ed focusses on public safety and privacy issues, which certainly need to be addressed in any drone regulation or guidelines, they fail to note the overall business potential in Hong Kong for the application of drone and unmanned aerial systems. A recent Business Insider Report on the potential drone market estimates that there may be over half a million civilian drones in operation around the world by 2020, working in a wide range of fields.
Any potential regulation in Hong Kong needs to consider the business potential for drones, especially in light of the Government’s push towards innovation and technology. With the world’s largest drone maker – DJI – just across the border in Shenzhen, Hong Kong risks missing out on the technology and potential of this still-growing market.