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Taiwan: Drone Regulations to Be Revised

(July 30, 2015) Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) announced on July 23, 2015, that a revision of Taiwan laws on the licensing and operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and camera drones will be completed by mid-September. The new measures will establish a regulatory framework that, among other features, will provide for a coordinated response to the increasing number of UAVs and drones in Taiwan’s air space. (CAA to Revise Drone Regulations in September, TAIWAN TODAY (July 24, 2015).)

Features of the Proposed New Regulations

The draft provisions will tighten regulations on commercial UAVs weighing 25 kilograms (about 55 pounds) or more, through such requirements as mandatory certification of the vehicle and of the operator. Recreational devices that weigh less than 25 kilograms will be under the supervision of the local government concerned. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications is designated under the draft framework as the competent authority for all UAV and drone operations. The provisions will also provide a definition of operating airspace for the drones and UAVs. (Id.) Yeh Shin-cheng, Minister without Portfolio in charge of coordinating the government’s response to the drone issue, stated, “UAVs and drones are usually flown at no more than 100 meters above ground level. We will work with international norms in this regard and allow local governments leeway in making adjustments based on regional considerations and needs.” (Id.)

Aspects of Current Law on Drones

According to the CAA, there are restrictions against objects that pose a potential hazard to flight safety, including drones, operating in the vicinity of Taiwan’s airports, and persons who operate a drone at a height of 60 meters above ground level face being fined from NT$300,000 (US$9,607) to NT$1.5 million. (ROC Cabinet Hashes Out Drone Regulations, TAIWAN TODAY (July 23, 2015) .) The Civil Aviation Act prescribes such a fine for violation of its provisions against “raising pigeons or releasing objects considered hazardous to flight safety.” (Civil Aviation Act (May 30, 1953, as last amended Feb. 4, 2015), art. 118 ¶ 1(4), CAA website.) Unless otherwise approved by the CAA, the Act states, such actions are “prohibited within a certain distance from the outer boundary of an airport or airfield.” (Id. art. 34 ¶ 2.)

The CAA has also issued a directive specifying the kinds of objects prohibited from being released in the environs of airports, the dimensions of the proscribed area, certain conditions under which it might be permitted to allow the release of the objects, and so on. Remotely controlled aircraft (yao-k’ung fei-chi) are among the prohibited devices, along with the catch-all “other floating or mobile objects that could affect aircraft safety.” (CAA, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Important Points of Implementation for Prohibiting the Release in the Areas Surrounding Airports of Objects that Hinder Flight Safety (Jan. 10, 2002, as last amended Aug. 2, 2013), item 3, Taipei Songshan Airport website.) The CAA has also pointed out that remotely piloted aircraft released outside of airport areas should also comply with other legal regulations, such as the Social Order Maintenance Act, the Redoubt Fortress Zone Law, the Railway Law, etc., to prevent harm to life and property and protect public safety, national defense secrets, and personal privacy. (Explanation of the Unmanned Vehicle Striking Taipei Building 101 and the Management Mechanism of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, CAA website (July 22, 2015) (in Chinese).)

Context of the Cabinet Drafting New Regulations

According to CAA Director-General Lin Tyh-ming, “[b]ased on similar legislation in the EU and U.S., the proposed regulatory framework will complement the present one by providing clearer definitions for different types of drones and guidelines on law enforcement.” (CAA to Revise Drone Regulations in September, supra.) One reason behind the move by the Cabinet to draft new regulations is “national security concerns stemming from a series of drone-related accidents in the past few weeks. Taipei 101, the world’s tallest green-certified building, has been struck by drones several times beginning last month. The latest incident occurred July 21 with a mainland Chinese tourist at the controls.” (ROC Cabinet Hashes Out Drone Regulations, supra.)