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42 www.hk-lawyer.org •  February 2018 Drone Regulation: A Commercial Perspective I n recent years the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems or drones has exploded due to their increasing capabilities. Though still regarded by some as gadgets useful for little more than basic surveillance or shooting videos, drones are now used in a variety of commercial applications: land surveyors can map areas more quickly and safely with mapping drones; insurance adjusters can inspect more damaged assets with drones; and farmers can use drones to monitor crops and collect soil data. As drone technology further improves, so will their capacity to transform daily life. Yet notwithstanding their commercial potential, drones clearly present risks to public safety and personal privacy. Indeed, the popular perception of drones By Alex Yang, Senior Associate Deacons Machiuanna Chu, Partner Deacons as flying cameras threatening both privacy advocates and manned aircraft has maligned them in the eyes of many members of the public. Such risks have prompted some policy makers to take a conservative regulatory approach by developing rules focusing largely (if not exclusively) on safety considerations. On the other hand, other jurisdictions seeking to realise the commercial potential of the drone industry are taking steps to unlock it by coming up with regulations that could facilitate the development of new technologies. These policy makers recognise that as the drone market matures, more value will migrate to software that can enhance detect-and- avoid systems, enable autonomous flight, and assist with navigation in areas where no GPS signals are available. For drone companies, streamlined administrative procedures and specific rules governing commercial drone flights could act as a bedrock for testing new technologies or launching new services. Hong Kong's own laws regulating drones are mainly based on public safety considerations (perhaps understandable given the city's high urban density and crowded population centres). However, the existing approval regime for commercial drone flights is cumbersome and may not adequately address commercial realities. Cognizant of this, the Hong Kong Government has in recent years studied regulations in other jurisdictions with an eye towards updating existing laws concerning drone usage. As

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