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LCQ7: Unmanned aircraft systems
     Following is a question by the Hon Starry Lee and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Yau Shing-mu, in the Legislative Council today (May 24):
     Some members of the public have relayed to me that with the growing popularity of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), the safety and privacy problems arising from UASs have become increasingly serious. For instance, in early January this year, a helicopter of the Government Flying Service about to carry out rescue mission was almost hit by a UAS. Also, during the Formula E Hong Kong e-Prix held in October last year, a person used a number of UASs to conduct aerial photography over the venue. However, UASs are regulated under the existing legislation only to the extent of prohibiting acts of operating UASs recklessly or negligently, and requiring any person using UASs for reward to apply for and obtain a permit from the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) beforehand. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of complaints concerning UASs received by CAD, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data and other related organisations in each of the past three years, together with a breakdown by nature of complaint; the follow-up actions taken respectively by such organisations, and whether prosecutions were instituted;
(2) whether it studied in the past three years the regimes adopted by foreign governments for regulating UASs; if so, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that; whether it will revise the relevant safety guidelines to safeguard public safety; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) of the latest progress of the consultancy study, commissioned by CAD, on issues relating to the regulation of UASs?
     The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) attaches great importance to flight safety, including the operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), to ensure that such activities could be performed in accordance with air safety requirement. UAS is a kind of aircraft, and its flight safety is regulated by the civil aviation legislation.  With reference to current regulations, the operators of UAS, regardless of the weight and purpose of UAS operated, are governed by Article 48 of the Air Navigation (Hong Kong) Order 1995 (Cap.448C, Laws of Hong Kong) (the Order). The Order stipulates that a person shall not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property. 
     Separately, in accordance with Regulation 22 of the Air Transport (Licensing of Air Services) Regulations (Cap. 448A, Laws of Hong Kong), regardless of the weight of the UAS, if a person uses a UAS for reward, he/she must lodge an application with CAD before operating such aircraft and abide by the conditions stipulated in the permit granted by CAD in providing the service. Prior to the issuance of a permit, CAD would take into consideration whether the applicant and his/her UAS could operate under a safe condition. The permit issued by CAD would also stipulate relevant conditions and requirements to ensure safe operation. 
     Articles 3, 7 and 100 of the Order provide that, any person must apply to CAD for a Certificate of Registration and a Certificate of Airworthiness for any unmanned aircraft weighing more than 7 kilograms (without fuel) before he/she could operate such aircraft. 
     With the rapid technological development of UAS and the increasingly diversified use of UAS, Governments over the world have been actively considering strengthening the regulatory regime on the use of UAS. CAD has also commissioned an overseas consultant to conduct a study on the regulation of UAS. 
     At the same time, CAD will continue to strengthen its publicity and educational efforts through different channels, including its website, other relevant websites and publications, so as to raise the safety awareness of the relevant sectors and organisations, as well as the general public, about the operations of UASs. From May 2017 onwards, CAD made use of the television and radio to promote safety guidelines on UAS in order to strengthen the protection of public safety.
     My reply to the specific parts of the Hon Starry Lee's question is as follows:
(1) In the past three years, complaints received by CAD mainly involve the operation of UAS at inappropriate time, venue and/or height. The number of cases received is tabulated as follows: 
(April to December)
2015 2016 2017
(Until March 31)
Number of Cases 4 27 47 16

     Upon receipt of complaints, CAD will take follow-up actions which include obtaining further information from the parties concerned for analysis, urging the parties concerned to comply with the flight safety regulations and guidelines of UAS flights and requesting the relevant Police division to set up patrol. In addition, CAD has been liaising with the Police and providing technical support to the Police in its enforcement action.
     The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) received two UAS-related complaints in the past three years (from April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2017), in which the primary concern was possible acts by the UAS operators to collect personal data. In one of the cases, since the complainant did not provide information required for PCPD to follow up, no follow up action could be taken. For the other case, PCPD decided after studying the case details that no collection of personal data was involved and the matter was outside the ambit of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and PCPD. 
(2) and (3) At present, there is neither standardised international requirement on the manufacture, import, sale and operations of UAS, nor a set of unified international regulatory guidelines and principles. In order to enhance public safety, CAD has been monitoring closely the technological advancement of UAS and the development of regulatory regime of UAS around the world. CAD has commissioned an overseas consultant in March this year to conduct a study on the regulation of UAS. The consultant will review the regulatory regime of UAS of other overseas aeronautical authorities (including Asia, Europe and North America), where particular emphasis would be placed on areas/regions with operating environments akin to Hong Kong (e.g. densely populated areas and regions with skyscrapers). The consultant will also engage local stakeholders during the process. Having due regard to the above findings, the consultant will make recommendations to CAD on the framework and direction of regulating UAS, including but not limited to the categorisation of UAS, registration and licensing mechanism of UAS as well as the planning of no-fly zones.  The consultant will also make reference to and take into account the latest developments with regard to the safety standards and guidelines of UAS promulgated by the International Civil Aviation Organization. 
     Based on the current timetable, it is envisaged that the study would be completed within 2017. Taking into account the result of the consultancy study, CAD will make concrete recommendations on the way forward of regulating UAS, including whether there is a need to amend the legislation. In the review of the UAS regulatory regime and enforcement, CAD will pay particular attention to striking a reasonable balance between the use of UAS for recreational and work purposes and the protection of public safety. 
Ends/Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:30
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