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Seoul City urges eased drone rules

Seoul City on Monday urged the central government to loosen drone regulations as part of its plans to use the unmanned aerial vehicles for the public good.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government requested the Defense Ministry and Transport Ministry simplify the approvals process for drone use in cases to be used for monitoring the city’s traffic status, officials said.

Under current rules, flying drones over 12 kilograms requires a permit from the Seoul Regional Aviation Administration. Regardless of the weight, taking pictures with drones or flying them in flight-restricted areas also needs approval from the Defense Ministry for each flight.

Flying drones over 150 meters high, at night and dropping objects are strictly prohibited.

Seoul City has been using drones under 12 kilograms for monitoring and analyzing the traffic status and checking traffic facilities.

Because most parts of the capital are flight-restricted areas, the city has to submit an approval request a half month before each use of a drone, the officials said. Flights are prohibited from traveling above most areas in Seoul north of the Hangang River, while flights south of the river are restricted based on occasion. A Defense Ministry official must also be present at the drone-flying site.

“The strict drone rule is understandable as it involves public security. Applying the same regulations for private drones to public-purpose drones, however, often delays the project time due to trivial administrative works,” a Seoul City official told The Korea Herald.

“If the government grants approval for a certain period, not for each time, it will greatly simplify the work,” he added.

Seoul City has been active in utilizing drones in various sectors. In August, the city vowed to adopt drones in search and rescue operations at disaster scenes. It is currently running two drones in the fire and disaster department on a trial basis, authorities said.

By Lee Hyun-jeong (