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Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Thinking of buying a drone? Hong Kong watchdog advises you to be wary of a soaring price tag

Consumer watchdog reveals cheaper Mavic Pro by Shenzhen-based DJI passed tests with flying colours

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 5:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 8:25pm

Spending a sky-high amount on a drone won’t necessarily land you the best on the market, a city watchdog has discovered

The Consumer Council made its observation on Tuesday after testing 11 drone models for their flight performance, filming quality, safety and other attributes.

The council also called on authorities to speed up a study into tightening the regulation of drone operations, which are growing in popularity among city residents.

Conducted between March and June, the tests covered four models weighing 1kg or less, and seven heavier models.

Both categories fall within the definition of recreational operations by the Civil Aviation Department, which currently exempts all drones weighing 7kg or less from requiring a permit.

The best performer was found to be the Mavic Pro by Shenzhen-based DJI, which earned 41/ 2 out of five stars.

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The popular drone scored full marks on flight control, stability, as well as filming quality.

The basic model is on sale for HK$7,759, 25 per cent cheaper than the most expensive model tested, GoPro Karma, which ­carries a HK$10,380 price tag.

The Karma was also the heaviest of the 11 models at nearly 2kg.

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In terms of battery performance, the Parrot Bebop 2 FPV triumphed with around 25 minutes of flight time before the critical battery warning was triggered, while the Mavic Pro and the Phantom 3 Standard – also by DJI – were the only other models to last longer than 20 minutes.

Apart from hardware specifications, the watchdog urged ­consumers to operate drones with caution and abide by the law.

At present, the flying of drones is regulated by the Air Navigation (Hong Kong) Order and the Air Transport (Licensing of Air Services) Regulations, both umbrella ordinances not designed with the devices in mind.

A study is being conducted by the Civil Aviation Department into the possible tightening of the rules with reference to laws from elsewhere.

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“For example, a registration system was launched on the mainland in June to help authorities trace the operator,” said Wong Kam-fai, chairman of the council’s research and testing committee.

Labels must be attached to drones in Germany, and Britain was in the process of drafting legislation making the attendance of potential users mandatory at introductory courses, he said.

Wong also noted there were privacy concerns when drones were flown near residential areas, and he called on a joint effort by government departments to tackle these.