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China limits drone usage in populated areas

The Chinese government will soon launch new regulations that will ban drones being used to deliver goods to densely populated cities and towns.

James Martin/CNET

While drone-delivery technology looks to be utilised in the near future in the US, new regulations in China will limit the commercial usage of unmanned aerial vehicles for civilian safety.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China will soon establish new laws that restrict drones from delivering packages in densely populated areas, reports the South China Morning Post. According to the publication, the announcement was made by Ke Yubao, executive secretary general of the government-backed Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China, on Monday at Beijing's China Aviation Development Summit.

"China's detection and collision-avoidance systems on small drones are not good enough and still need improvement to avoid dense building clusters and electric wires," he said. "A collision or crash would compromise the safety of people on the ground."

The industry appears to be on the cusp of blossoming in the US, with Amazon on Sunday showing off its newly designed Prime Air delivery drone. Batches of the Prime Air will be deployed when the company has "the regulatory support needed to safely realise our vision," a spokeswoman told CNET. Meanwhile, the technology is widespread enough in Singapore that Uber in July was able to send ice cream to customers on a hot day. In addition to product deliveries, drones are also used in China to help the government enforce pollution-control guidelines.

The restrictions on e-commerce deliveries isn't the only new regulation to be imposed in the country. Owners will now have to register the weight, maximum altitude and place of their drone's manufacture before it's allowed to take off. Additionally, UAV's weighing or able to carry a load over 25kg (55lbs) and those that can fly above 150 metres (490 feet) will have to go through a more rigorous acceptance process than lighter or lower-flying ones.

UAV technology is becoming more commonplace around the world, but with increased usage comes increased government concern. Over in Japan in July, for instance, it was made illegal for civilians to fly drones around the political centre or the Imperial Palace following an April incident that saw a man fly a UAV carrying radioactive sand onto Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's roof.