Shenzhen has moved a step forward in regulating the booming industry for unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, as the southern city in Guangdong province launched a trial traffic management program on Monday.
The trial program aims to regulate flight activities of civilian UAVs, guide users in flying drones legally and ensure public safety.
As part of the program, the city introduced provisional flight management measures for UAVs. The document provides a guideline under which UAV enterprises and users may operate drones.
The government has simplified its approval process for operations involving combat readiness, anti-terrorism, rescue and relief.
For example, advance notice for emergency flights has been lowered to 30 minutes from the previous one hour.
The trial program also includes a new online platform for UAV management that offers services including quick approvals of flight applications, real-time flight paths, quick verification of aircraft identity and information broadcasting.
"Linking the management systems of the Air Force, the Civil Aviation Administration and the municipal government, the platform represents innovative cooperation between the military and civilian sectors," said Ge Xiaoming, director of the trial program's office.
The UAV industry has seen robust development in China over the past few years, with drones being applied in a wide variety of fields, including rescue operations, surveying and mapping, agriculture and traffic control. Drones for recreational use are also on the rise.
According to a report by Qianzhan Industry Research Institute, the Chinese market for civilian UAVs is expected to reach 46.5 billion yuan ($6.7 billion) by 2020 and grow further to 75 billion yuan by 2025.
Xiang Zitao, deputy general manager of Shenzhen-based drone maker MicroMultiCopter Aero Technology Co, said the introduction of the traffic management program will create a better environment for further growth of UAVs and benefit the whole industry.
"The official guideline sets a framework for us to operate our business. We now have a clear understanding of what is legal and what is illegal. This is also a guarantee for UAV enterprises," he said.
"Moreover, with the online platform, flight procedures will become more regulated and efficient, promoting the industry's development."
UAV regulation has been a hot topic after several illegal drone flights, especially near airports, created widespread public safety concerns.
In April last year, several drones were flown illegally over Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Sichuan province, leading to the cancellation or delay of dozens of flights.