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Gov’t plans to allow drone delivery

Sept 14,2017
Drone deliveries could become a reality in Korea as the government is considering removing the regulations that currently restrict the unmanned vehicles from traveling long distances or at night.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Wednesday announced that it is considering reforming the regulations that currently restrict drones from being used commercially. The ministry will canvass public opinion on the issue until Oct. 2.

Under current regulations, parcel companies are barred from using drones to make deliveries as the unmanned vehicles can only travel distances that are within the view of the person piloting them. Additionally, drones are prohibited from flying after dark.

But the new reform bill allows for long-distance travel and night flying if a drone meets several safety requirements, including the addition of a fail-safe that allows the drone to land safely or return its starting point if there is a problem such as a system failure, low battery or communications disruption. The drones will also have to have a system that can automatically detect obstacles installed and a first-person view camera that allows the pilot to monitor the flight in real-time.

To fly after dark the unmanned vehicles must include a crash prevention system that recognizes obstacles that are 5 kilometers away. These drones will have to operated and monitored by at least two people and the landing pad used at night has to be lit with search lights.

Companies will be able to get approval to fly drones over long distances or at night for a maximum of six months, after which they will have to reapply.

After canvassing public opinion on the changes and consulting with industry experts, the Transport Ministry is hoping to implement the new regulations in November.

The Moon Jae-in administration has agreed to actively lift regulations that are thought to block the entry of new businesses. A cabinet meeting earlier this month hosted by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon concluded that actively easing regulations on autonomous vehicle, customized health care and drones can create new job opportunities, particularly among young people.

The global race to using drones for commercial deliveries has been intensifying. Last month Flytrex, a company based in Tel Aviv, Israel, partnered with Iceland-based restaurant and retailers platform company AHA to officially launch the world’s first food delivery service via drones in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Other global companies are already testing drone delivery. Amazon in December delivered a television streaming device and a bag of popcorn through a drone to a customer in the U.K.


BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]