Drone operators arrested for cracking drone systems and extending flight range

Tian Shengjie
Two people are facing prison sentences for cracking the system of unmanned drones, and extending their flight range to include restricted areas.
Tian Shengjie

Two people face criminal charges due to cracking the system of unmanned drones, and illegally extending their flying range for business, the Baoshan District's court announced on Friday.

This is the first case of its kind in the city, the court said.

Flying drones in some areas has adverse effects such as disturbing social order and injuring people, drone companies have set a system to avoid flying drones in banned areas. But some users have tried to break the limitations.

The duo, surnamed Gao and Liu, are drone users. They learned how to crack the system in a QQ chat group in 2019 and do business on the e-commerce platform Taobao. They charged 150 yuan (US$21.82) to 300 yuan for each drone, the Baoshan's procuratorate said.

The cracking the drone system can be done remotely, and as of October last year, over 100 drones have been unlocked, it mentioned.

Gao and Liu have been sentenced to seven months in jail with a fine of 3,000 yuan and five months in prison, with five-month probation, and a fine of 2,000 yuan, respectively. They pleaded guilty and accepted the punishment, the court said.

The unruly drone has become one of the most vexing questions at the airport in recent years, said Xu Yile, an official of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) East China Regional Administration.

In 2017, a drone illegally flew to the runway clear zone of the Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. It caused 22 airliners to be diverted. The airport resumed regular services an hour later.

Similar cases also happened in many other provinces recently, such as Yunnan, Qinghai and Shaanxi.

Some people even flew the drones above national military regions without report, leading helicopters being called out and fighter planes prepared.

They all took legal responsibility accordingly.

The CAAC announced last year that there are about 830,000 drones in China according to the real-name registration system of drones, and most of them are for civil use.

Wang Chenjian, an official at the local public security bureau, said: "At present, many people have drones because of the affordable price but they need to understand the local drone regulations before using them."

Drone operators arrested for cracking drone systems and extending flight range

In 2020, Shanghai government launched a list of no-drone zones, involving:

1. Clearance zones of military airports and restricted zones of the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Hongqiao International Airport, Longhua Helicopter Airport and Gaodong Helicopter Airport.

2. Military forbidden zones and protection zones of important research, production, testing and storage facilities of military industries, and 500 meters within their range.

3. Military administration zones, and city and national CPC and government organs and places under their supervision, and 100 meters within their range.

4. Nuclear facility control areas under Level I and II protection standards, large enterprises which produce and store dangerous inflammable and explosive materials and large warehouses and bases which store inflammable important materials, and 100 meters within their range.

5. Power plants, electricity substations, gas stations and large bus stations, wharfs and ports, and 50 meters within their range.

6. High-speed railway and the Metro's non-underground rails, and 100 meters within their range.

7. Normal railway and national and provincial expressways, and 50 meters within their range.

8. Areas where the government temporarily bans drones.

People who need to use civil drones and other aircrafts or floating objects in the banned areas must file applications with the air force and civil aviation or meteorological administrations, or institutions in charge of the protection of military facilities in advance.

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