Drone complaints in 2017 double from 2015, with most cases involving restricted areas, Hong Kong authorities say 

Figures revealed as a three-month public consultation is under way with officials considering proposals to strengthen and refine legislation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 8:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 9:00am

The number of complaints lodged against drones in 2017 more than doubled from 2015, with two-thirds of cases involving operations in restricted areas, Hong Kong’s aviation authority said on Wednesday.

In a written statement to the Legislative Council, the Civil Aviation Department said it received 60 complaints last year against drone operations, compared with 47 cases in 2016 and 27 in 2015.

Under current aviation rules, drone operations are banned in certain areas, including populated and congested districts, the airport, near helipads, as well as at Victoria Harbour.

The department said 41 complaints received last year were related to drone activities in such areas, while nine other cases involved privacy-related issues.

“Upon receipt of complaints, the department will take appropriate follow-up actions which may include obtaining further information from the parties concerned, urging the parties to comply with unmanned aircraft safety guidelines and rules, or requesting the relevant police division to step up patrols,” the department said in a statement.

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It also said it would refer complaints to police for further action. 

In the past three years, there have been two prosecutions stemming from drone complaints, with the offender in one case convicted, while another remains on trial. 

At present, drones in Hong Kong are classified as aircraft and governed by civil aviation legislation. Operators are required to observe telecoms laws, but there is no specific regulation on the use of drones, known formally as “unmanned aerial vehicles”.

Civil aviation law only requires those who operate drones weighing more than 7kg, for leisure or commercial photography, to apply to the department. 

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According to the Air Navigation Order, a user may bear legal responsibility if he or she recklessly or negligently causes or permits an aircraft to endanger any person or property. 

The department last month launched a three-month public consultation exercise for feedback on recommendations of a consultancy study conducted last year. 

Owners of drones may have to register with the authorities, receive training and pass tests, and meet insurance requirements under the proposals. Officials are mulling options as they seek to regulate the remote-controlled flying devices.