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Technology

Drone sellers in Hong Kong unfazed by proposed rules and expected short-term profit hit  

Shopkeepers generally support more controls on the use of the devices, which are becoming more popular as prices fall

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 10:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 10:44am

Drone retailers in Hong Kong expect a short-term business hit if the government’s proposed regulations on the remote-controlled aircraft come into force, with customers concerned about the need to register personal details to own such devices.

Despite this, the shopkeepers generally support more controls on the use of the devices, which are becoming increasingly popular as prices fall. A beginner’s model can cost as little as HK$200 (US$25.60), retailers told the Post on Wednesday.

The government on Tuesday launched a three-month consultation seeking public views on how the use of drones should be regulated. The move followed calls for a review of existing regulations, which the authorities admitted were too “rudimentary”.

Controls proposed include requiring drone owners to provide personal details such as names, phone numbers, information and a photo of their device for registration. They would also be required to put the registration number on their drones.

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The consultation paper further proposed that operators be made to undergo training and assessment, depending on the size, weight and power of the drone. Purchasing insurance for the devices was also recommended.

Users will accept the new requirements when they understand the measures are for the public good
Henky Chan, drone company director

Henky Chan Kai-kwong, a director at Sky Studio – a company in Kwai Chung specialising in drones for aerial filming – said some clients had expressed privacy concerns over the registration system and might not buy to avoid giving out personal data.

“Business could be slightly impacted at the beginning. But I am not too worried as drones are getting more popular. Users will accept the new requirements when they understand the measures are for the public good,” Chan, who has been in the trade for over 10 years, said.

“I told them registration should not be an issue if they were responsible users.

“We all need to get a licence to drive a car and undergo tests and submit our personal data to get the licence. Unless you are going to use your drone for some bad purpose, why should you be afraid of registering with the government for operating drones?”

A sales assistant at drone shop FlyCam HK, in Sham Shui Po, shared similar views. 

“Requiring users to get training is a good move. Sometimes, clients just buy a drone and fly without even reading the manual, thinking it is like playing with a remote control toy car,” she said. 

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According to research last year by the Legislative Council Secretariat, there were an estimated 5,000 drones deployed in Hong Kong for recreation or commercial uses such as aerial photographing, surveying and mapping.

Under current aviation rules, drones weighing less than 7kg can be operated for recreation without special permission.

Additional reporting by Danny Mok