Drone industry experts are calling for a real-name registration system for buyers to improve management of the sector, after illegally flown drones severely disrupted flights at Chengdu international airport three times last week.
Four drones were spotted flying illegally over the airport runway protection zone at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Southwest China's Sichuan Province for three hours on Friday, the West China Metropolis Daily reported.
Their intrusion forced four flights to return to their origin and another 58 to land at other airports, some as far away as Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, and Guiyang, capital of Southwest China's Guizhou Province.
More than 10,000 travelers were stranded at the airport.
In a separate incident on Friday, Chengdu police detained two 21-year-old men who illegally flew drones at the same airport, and another 33-year-old man was detained on Wednesday for the same act. In addition, Chengdu police found drones being flown illegally on April 14, 17 and 18.
Chengdu is a hot spot for illegal drone flights as there are many manufacturers, such as Chengdu Yunkan Science & Technology Ltd, and amateurs and professionals who fly drones in the city, said Zhang Lipeng, an employee from Chengdu drone operation training agency Tianxing Smartflight Technology of UAV.
The agency trained 60 to 70 drone pilots in 2016, according to another employee surnamed Li, who said that it only represents a small number of the total who fly drones in Chengdu.
Wang Song, a staffer from the Chongqing branch of the National Robot Test and Assessment Center, told the Global Times on Sunday that although the government has published regulations on the drone industry, many drone pilots lack awareness of the regulations due to lax supervision.
"Many pilots don't register their drones or apply for flight approval to avoid responsibility for accidents, such as an explosion," Wang said, adding that a real-name system would help.
Wang noted that drones are cheap and easy to buy, adding to the difficulty of management. The cost of buying a drone varies from less than 120 yuan ($17) to nearly 500,000 yuan on online shopping platform Taobao.
Feng Zhenglin, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said in March that the administration would introduce a real-name system to regulate the drone industry as unregulated flights have been causing problems that threaten China's air safety, The Beijing News reported.
DJI, a Chinese drone manufacturing giant based in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, has installed a program on their machines to stop them from approaching banned areas such as airports and governmental agencies.
The program does not allow drones to take off in banned areas and it makes them slow and hover when encroaching into banned areas from the outside, according to DJI's WeChat account.