Certification and licensing
Basic requirements and procedures
What certificates or licences are required to operate drones and what procedures apply?
According to Measures for the Administration of the Commercial Flight Activities of Civil Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Interim)(‘Measures’ in question 11-13), within the territory of PRC (except for Hongkong, Macao and Taiwan), to use unmanned aircrafts whose maximum empty weight is more than 250 grams (including 250 grams) for commercial operational activities and commercial training activities , including aerial dusting (spraying), aerial photography, air show, etc., an operator’s license issued by the the Civil Aviation Administration of PRC (CAAC) regional administration shall be obtained.
An applicant shall apply for an operator’s license of unmanned aircrafts online through the Civil Unmanned Aircraft System Operator’s Certificate Management System. （https://uas.caac.gov.cn/login）
An applicant shall submit the following information online and ensure that it is true and legitimate. (1) basic information regarding the enterprise’s legal person, (2) registration numbers of unmanned aircrafts, (3) the recognition number of the unmanned aircraft training institution (this shall only applies to training activities), (4) an agreement to take out third-party ground liability insurance for unmanned aircrafts and (5) Details of activities that the enterprise plans to carry out.
The CAAC regional administration shall determine whether to grant the certificate within 20 days of the application being submitted online. If the certificate is granted, the applicant can obtain the electronic certificate online. If not, the applicant can check the reason online.
Taxes and fees
Are certification and licensing procedures subject to any taxes or fees?
Measures do not regulate whether certificating procedures are subject to any taxes or fees. Besides, there is no tax and fee column in the Civil Unmanned Aircraft System Operator’s Certificate Management System.
Who may apply for certifications and licences? Do any restrictions apply?
According to Measures, an applicant for an operator’s certificate of unmanned aircrafts shall meet the following basic conditions:
- the entity engaging in business activities shall be a legal person and the legal representative shall be a Chinese citizen;
- the enterprise shall have one unmanned aircraft at a minimum, and undergo the formalities of real name registration in the ‘unmanned aircraft real-name registration system’;
- the enterprise has its training ability recognised by a competent department of the industry or an institution authorised thereby (this shall only apply to training activities); and
- it has purchased third-party ground liability insurance for unmanned aircrafts.
Currently, the third condition, the training ability recognised by a competent department of the industry or an institution authorised thereby, is no longer reviewed, since CAAC is adjusting the criteria for the training ability.
Remote pilot licences
Must remote pilots obtain any certifications or licences to operate drones? If so, do the relevant procedures differ based on the type of drone or operation?
Unmanned aircrafts that can be operated without the pilot licence are unmanned aircrafts operated indoors, unmanned aircrafts of type I and type II, and unmanned aircrafts being trialed in a sparsely-populated spacious area.
Unmanned aircrafts that must be operated with the pilot licence are unmanned aircrafts operated in the isolated airspace and fusion airspace other than those of type I and type II. Fusion airspace means airspace where both manned aircrafts and unmanned aircrafts can be operated while isolated airspace means airspace that is only allocated to the operation of unmanned aircrafts.
Administrative Regulations on Pilots of Civil Unmanned Aircrafts enacted on 31 March 2018 regulate relevant procedures such as application and approval of the pilot licence, validity and update of the licence, increase of the rating, and the Regulations have changed the regulatory pattern so that CAAC directly takes charge of issuance and regulation of all unmanned aircraft pilot licences.
The same application procedures apply to unmanned aircraft pilot licences of different types. However, the requirements of obtaining licences do differ based on types of licences as follow.
Unmanned aircraft pilot licences could be divided into licences for pilots who are qualified to perform flights in visual line of sight and those for pilots who are qualified to perform flights beyond visual line of sight.
Administrative Regulations on Pilots of Civil Unmanned Aircrafts published on 31 August 2018 classify civil unmanned aircrafts into seven types based on empty weight and take-off gross weight. The Regulations provide that pilots of XI rating and those of XII rating shall go through a proficiency check on each category and type (if applicable) of unmanned aircrafts endorsed under the corresponding rating every 12 months. The Regulations also impose different licence rules on pilots of unmanned aircrafts of different rating.
Based on the above ratings, licences for pilots who are qualified to perform flights beyond visual line of sight could be divided into licences below rating XI (excluding rating XI), and licences of rating XI and XII.
To obtain those three types of pilot licences, an applicant must have corresponding flight experience and aviation knowledge, and have passed the relevant theory test on aviation knowledge and practice test on flying skill. Besides, an applicant must fulfill the corresponding requirements of age, record of criminal offence and degree of education.
Are foreign operators authorised to fly drones in your jurisdiction? If so, what requirements and restrictions apply?
Only the legal body of enterprise whose legal representative is a Chinese citizen is eligible to obtain the requisite operator’s certificate to carry out commercial activities within the territory of PRC (except for Hongkong, Macao and Taiwan) with unmanned aircrafts，according to Measures for the Administration of the Commercial Flight Activities of Civil Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Interim).
No specific laws and regulations regulate foreign unmanned aircrafts or foreign unmanned aircraft pilots. However, General Rules of Flight and Regulations of General Aviation Flight Mission Approval and Management do impose some restrictions on the flight conducted by foreign civil aircrafts or domestic civil aircrafts piloted by foreign pilots alone as the followings.
Foreign aircrafts flying into or out of the territorial airspace of PRC, or foreign aircrafts flying or staying within the territory of PRC shall gain approval according to the relevant laws and regulations of PRC.
In addition, foreign civil aircrafts or domestic civil aircrafts piloted by foreign pilots alone shall be subject to the following restrictions.
Those aircrafts are not permissive to undertake general aviation flight of significant professional fields with the territory of PRC, such as aerial photography, remote sensing and mineral resource exploration.CAAC shall consult the Headquarter of General Staff of People’s Liberation Army to review whether those aircrafts could use airports, airspace and air routes that are not open to the public for general aviation flight.Before those aircrafts perform other general aviation flight mission, flight application must be submitted according to the national flight control regulations, explaining nature of the mission.
Moreover, Interim Ordinances on Unmanned Aircraft Flight Management (draft for comments) clarifies that ‘within the territory of PRC, foreign unmanned aircrafts or domestic unmanned aircrafts piloted by foreigners alone are prohibited from undertaking flight activities such as measurement and survey, and filming sensitive areas.
Certificate of airworthiness
Is a certificate of airworthiness required to operate drones? If so, what procedures apply?
In general, all civil aircrafts within the territory of PRC shall obtain the airworthiness certificate issued by CAAC to fly. Airworthiness Certification Procedures for Civil Aircrafts and Related Products and Certification Regulations of Civil Aviation Products and Accessories specifically regulate airworthiness certificate, airworthiness examination, and corresponding procedures applicable to civil aircrafts.
With respect to unmanned aircrafts, airworthiness is one of the factors deciding whether an unmanned aircraft could fly in the civil airspace. According to administrative measures for air traffic of civil unmanned aircraft systems, if 10 precedent conditions including complying with corresponding airworthiness regulation are satisfied, unmanned aircraft could be flown without evaluation or the approval of the regional administration of CAAC. In the safety evaluation of the unmanned aircraft operation in airspace, which is part of the evaluation of the regional administration of CAAC, an airworthiness certificate shall be taken into consideration.
However, detailed rules applying to unmanned aircrafts are still unclear., except that Systematic Airworthiness standard of High Risk Cargo Fixed Wing Unmanned Aircrafts enacted by CAAC on 20 January 2020 regulates the airworthiness of unmanned aircrafts.
In practice, CAAC issued a special flight permit to the V750 unmanned aircraft of Weifang Free Sky Aviation Industry Co., Ltd in 2013 and issued an airworthiness certificate to the V750 unmanned aircraft.
In addition, article 9 of Interim Ordinances on Unmanned Aircraft Flight Management (draft for comments) stipulates that medium and large unmanned aircrafts shall comply with airworthiness regulation.
Moreover, if Examination and Approval Management Procedures of Unmanned Aircraft System’s Airworthiness (draft for comments) and Guidelines on Risk Evaluation of Unmanned Aircraft System’s Airworthiness Examination and Approval Projects (draft for comments) issued by CAAC on 30 March 2020 are enacted officially, then details rules applying to civil unmanned aircraft airworthiness will be specified.
Law stated date
Give the date on which the information above is accurate.
14 June 2020.