South Koreans who own drones that have a maximum takeoff weight of over 2 kilograms will need to register them as they do for cars starting from next year, the government has announced.
The new laws will be promulgated in May this year and come into effect on 1 January 2021, said the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.
Previously, drones that weighed less than 12 kilograms, excluding weight from fuel, were not required to be registered.
The ministry said the new laws reflect safety concerns that have arisen due to the increase in the number of drones as well as the increased capacity of the machines themselves.
Recently, there have been "hit and run" cases where unregistered drones would damage cars, with the owners of the drones nowhere to be found, the government said.
The registration process will be done simply, through the internet or a smartphone app, a ministry spokesman said. The new drone laws will be in line with countries such as the United States, China, Germany, and Australia where all drones weighing over 250 grams must be registered, he added.
The government will also require mandatory testing and licences for all drones weighing over 250 grams.
Previously, only those operating drones weighing over 12 kilograms, or "industrial drones", were required to have a licence.
For owners of drones weighing less than 2 kilograms but more than 250 grams, the new laws will require these people to take an online course. Meanwhile, those who operate drones weighing between 2 kilograms to 7 kilograms will need to pass an additional written test and have 6 hours of flight experience.
Those who own drones weighing between 7 to 25 kilograms will need to take written and operation tests, as well as have 10 hours of flight experience, while those with drones weighing more than 25 kilograms will need 20 hours of flight experience in addition to the tests.
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Drones are currently heavily regulated to be far from populated areas. The "Mavic Mini," a drone weighing under 250 grams, from drone king DJI, gives a little window into a future in which the devices might be allowed to fly more freely in populated areas.
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