New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

Zhang Long
Many hobbyists have received messages telling them they have broken the rules when flying their drones, leading to queries in forums and chat groups about what is allowed or not.
Zhang Long

After the latest 2024 drone regulations rolled out on January 1, many drone users have received short messages telling them they have broken the rules.

The messages have begged questions from drone enthusiasts such as where can they fly their drones or has it become impossible to fly higher than 120 meters?

New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

Messages received by drone hobbyists to inform them of violations of the new regulation.

Since the the new safety and management regulations for unmanned aircraft came into effect at the start of the year, many drone hobbyists have raised questions in forums and chat groups on permitted altitudes, airspace suitable for flight, the 120-meter limit, and the Civil Unmanned Aircraft Integrated Management Platform (UOM).

Before the new regulation, hobbyists would look in the DJI Fly app or other apps to see if a location was a no-fly zone or restricted area (normally marked with grey area and not allowing drones to fly above 120 meters).

In Beijing, for example, the red marked areas are no-fly zones, where drones can't even take off.

Also, many scenic spots have the "No Drones" sign, even if the spot is not in a restricted area. When there were no clearly visible "No Drones" signs at some of the scenic spots, security staff can also ban flying drones.

New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

Restricted flight areas shown on the UOM platform in Beijing.

According to DJI's official website, the no-fly zones for DJI drones have been further divided into categories such as "height-restricted zones," "authorization zones," "warning zones," and "enhanced warning zones." In height-restricted zones, as the name suggests, the flying altitude of drones is limited, although specific heights are not clearly stated on the website.

New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

DJI's explanation of various airspaces on their website.

With the implementation of the new "Civil Unmanned Aerial Craft Operation Safety Management Rules," detailed explanations of the airspace available for drones have finally been provided. Under Article 92.511, the classification and designation of airspace are explicitly defined, dividing airspace into "suitable flight zones" and "controlled airspace."

New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

Airspace classified into "suitable flight zones" and "controlled airspace" in the new regulation.

However, it's not just a matter of being in a suitable flight zone; restrictions apply, especially regarding the terms "true altitude" and "120 meters," which are hot topics with drone enthusiasts.

Article 92.511(b) states that the airspace above the "true altitude of 120 meters" is considered "controlled airspace." This means that even if your drone takes off from a suitable flight zone, it cannot fly above 120 meters. To fly in controlled airspace, a flight activity must be submitted to the air traffic control authority by 12pm the day before the intended flight.

The "true altitude of 120 meters" limitation implies that the take-off point of the drone is marked as 0 meters on a horizontal plane, restricting the drone's vertical movement to 120 meters.

For example, if you want to take off from the base of a tall building and shoot its entirety, this is feasible if the building is less than 120 meters tall. However, if it exceeds 120 meters, the drone will enter controlled airspace before even reaching the top of the building.

Additionally, compared to the past no-fly zones, the specific area of suitable flight zones has changed considerably. For instance, the suitable flight zone map of Beijing and surrounding areas on the UOM platform shows a relatively small proportion of green zones.

New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

Drone enthusiasts must plan their flights carefully.

Drone enthusiasts must plan their trips and shoots carefully. If flying above the true altitude of 120 meters is required, learning how to apply for flight activities locally is necessary. Some places such as Zhejiang, Shanghai, and Shenzhen now support online applications.

Chinese tech media's analysis suggests that consumer drones, especially those used for photography, will gradually transition from being popular consumer electronics that provide aerial perspectives to being "professional niche products" similar to macro lenses in photography systems. "Aerial photography" will soon become a separate business from current photography services.

Practitioners will need to possess skill certifications, be familiar with suitable flight zone information, flight application procedures, and even plan flight paths under multiple conditions. Meanwhile, general consumers, due to the complexities and various restrictions of aerial photography, will become increasingly distanced from drones, only purchasing professional materials, services, or renting products for brief shooting experiences as needed.

How to register your drone on the UOM platform?

As the new regulation stipulates, all types of civil drone and aircraft must be registered on the UOM platform from January 1.

Here's a quick guide on how to register your drone in China:

Go to, or find the UOM app.

New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

Find the UOM app.

New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

Register with your mobile phone number.

New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts
New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

Translation of the Chinese page for detailed drone information, photos of your drone's front view and its SN serial numbers are also required.

After your drone is registered, you can log in to your account on the UOM website to check out suitable airspace for flight, as marked with green on the map.

New regulations spark questions from drone enthusiasts

Theoretically, you can take off in a place as long as it's within suitable flight airspace without registering your flight (as in areas marked with green color in the above map of Shanghai), and you need to register your flight 36 hours before if you want to take off in other areas (such as the non-green areas on the above map).

However, each city and region's rule might vary according to local drone-related regulations.

If you were to fly a drone in Shanghai, you would also need to register with local police via the 随申办市民云 app.

Special Reports