Should drones be regulated? - China & World - Chinadaily Forum
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Beijingers question whether kids should be allowed to pilot drones after a two-year-old is hit in the face by a drone that was operated by a German teenager. Photo: IC

(Global Times) On May 9, a two-year-old toddler was playing with his family in Chaoyang district's Xiaotaihou River Park when a drone fell from the sky and hit the toddler in the face, creating a six-centimeter gash on his nose, a Beijing News report said on June 1.

According to the report, police suspected that a 14-year-old German teenager was flying the drone when it fell and that he fled the scene after the incident. The police found both the teenager and the drone the following day.

The toddler got nine stitches on his face and will have a permanent scar, according to doctors. Meanwhile, the toddler's father surnamed Zhang has filed a lawsuit, the report said.

According to another report by the Tianjin Daily on May 28, the teenager's legal guardian is an engineer who works at Daimler-Benz's China branch in Beijing. The teen and his family haven't issued any comment on the incident or offered an apology or compensation to the toddler.

Metropolitan interviewed several Chinese and foreign residents in Beijing to gauge their feeling on the mishap.


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According to the Beijing government's policies, the German teen carried out an illegal act when he flew the drone in a banned area. Photo: VCG


Who is responsible?

"I think it was an accident; the German teenager didn't mean to hurt the toddler," said Alica from Italy, who is currently a student in Beijing.

"But still, the German teenager and his family should offer to help the toddler."

Thomas, a mechanic from Germany, agrees with Alica that the German teen's family should share some of the responsibility.

"No matter where you are from, you should always respect the rules of the country you are currently living in," Thomas said. "You can't do whatever you feel like just because you don't know anybody and nobody knows you in a different country."

"In case the insurance doesn't cover the medical expenses the toddler needs, a small compensation would probably be necessary," he said.

Shaan, a basketball coach from the US, shares the same opinion. "If that incident were on me, I would definitely take responsibility for it," he said.

Many Chinese in Beijing share the same opinion with the foreigners.

"Whether the responsible person is a foreigner or not, as long as they hurt other people, they need to apologize and offer due compensation," said a resident surnamed Zhang who has a young child himself.

"For example, if your dog hurts someone, the owner will be held responsible for the dog's action and compensate the people who are hurt."

Li, a female university student in Beijing who majors in cultural industry management, concurs.

"The drone was operated by someone, so the person who was operating the drone should be held responsible," she said. "Whether it involves drones doesn't matter. If you hurt someone, you should compensate them."

Cui Guoqing, another college student in Beijing, said the parents should be held more accountable because "a kid might not realize what he did was wrong."

"It's wrong for the parents to just take the kid and flee the scene, and not say or do anything to make up for it," Cui said.


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Should drones be regulated?

Besides condemning the German teen and his family's irresponsible behavior, Chinese and foreign residents also expressed their concerns about whether flying drones should be allowed in populated areas. They also wondered why there aren't any age restrictions regarding people who operate drones and whether there should be stricter regulations to control the drone's quality.

"People who are allowed to fly drones should be old enough and definitely have adult supervision," Alica said.

"I think the age at which people can be allowed to fly a drone should be set to at least 16 years old because small children cannot handle [drones]," Thomas said.

"Young children are not good at maneuvering machines, and they don't know about the risks," said a Chinese resident surnamed Zuo who is in the retail business.

Li said there should be regulations about where one can fly drones. "Drones should be restricted in public places."

Zhang said, "Drones should also meet certain standards before going on the market, as inferior products can be dangerous. They could fall from the sky and hurt people."

Zhang and Zuo both have young children and were alarmed by the accident. After the incident, they have repeatedly spoken to their children about watching out for drones, not playing with drones in public areas and staying away from them when they see other people playing with them.

According to the Tianjin Daily report, at the beginning of 2017, the Beijing government issued policies banning drones in populated districts in Beijing, including Shunyi, Tongzhou, Chaoyang, Huairou and Changping districts.

The accident happened in Chaoyang, where flying drones are against the rules.

Also, drones manufactured by legal companies have onboard GPS systems and can't take off in banned areas, which means the drone the German teenager was flying was modified. According to Chinese law, modifying a drone carries a fine of between 20,000 yuan ($3,115) and 200,000 yuan.

Zhang Qizhun, deputy director of the Beijing Aviation Law Society, told btime.com that the government should zone more areas for flying drones and strike down illegal modification of drones.

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