As the purview of civilian applications of drone technology has expanded, legal and regulatory concerns have been raised about aviation safety, liability for accidents, privacy and security of drones. Among a wide variety of issues associated with drone operations, aviation safety is one of the highest priorities.
To ensure operational safety of drones and to minimize risks to other aircraft in midair or people and property on the ground, the Aviation Act provides for certain requirements and operational limits. First, airworthiness certificates issued by the Korea Transportation Safety Authority are required to operate drones weighing more than 12 kg and less than 150 kg. Second, the Aviation Act also contains provisions to further restrict drone operations. Drones must remain within the visual line of sight of the operator. Drones must fly below 150 m in altitude and in daylight hours only. No operations are allowed within a 9.3 km radius of airports, or over populated areas or no-fly zones. Violations of these rules may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties.
It has been pointed out, however, that the current safety regulations under the Aviation Act may not be sufficient to ensure aviation safety of drones as they define drones only by weight without taking into account rapidly developing drone technology and a variety of risk factors to aviation safety, and do not have in place effective certification systems to ensure operational safety of drones. Legislative efforts would likely be pursued to reform the current regulations and to establish a national plan which delineates airspace where drones can fly safely and efficiently, and integrates such airspace into the national airspace systems.
While a flexible regulatory approach would be needed to foster the drone industry which is still in the burgeoning stage of development, safety regulations should be promptly reformed to reduce aviation safety risks associated with drone operations. Companies relevant to the drone industry should keep abreast of further regulatory developments in the industry.