Drone Flying in Shanghai Laws & Regulations

Shanghai Living

Shanghai has seen a surge in drone ownership mirroring global trends. While exact numbers for drone ownership in Shanghai are not readily available, it’s clear that both recreational and commercial drone usage has grown substantially. Popular for capturing aerial photography and videography, drones offer unique perspectives of the city’s skyline and landmarks.

Beyond leisure activities, drones in Shanghai are increasingly utilized for commercial purposes, such as real estate photography, construction site inspections, and event coverage. Additionally, innovations in technology have led to their application in sectors like agriculture, surveillance, and delivery services within the broader region. Leading brands like DJI, which is also a Chinese company, dominate the market, with models catering to both amateurs and professionals.

However Shanghai has strict regulations concerning drone operations to ensure safety and privacy. In this article, we delve deep into the laws and regulations of flying a drone in Shanghai.

The primary governing body for civil aviation, including drones, in China is the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). Always consult the official CAAC website or local governing bodies for the most up-to-date information on drone regulations in Shanghai. This guide serves as a general overview, and regulations can change over time.

Drone Flying Laws:

Drone Classification:

Drones in China are generally classified based on their weight:

  • No more than 250 grams (Category A)
  • More than 250 grams but no more than 7 kg (Category B)
  • More than 7 kg (Category C)

Flight Restrictions:

  • It’s prohibited to fly drones over or near military areas, government buildings, densely populated areas, or other sensitive areas.
  • Flying within a 10 km radius of an airport is not allowed without permission.
  • The maximum altitude allowed for drones is 120 meters above the ground.
  • Night flying is prohibited unless you have special permission.

Drone Pilot Requirements:

  • For drones weighing over 250 grams (Category B & C), the pilot must be at least 18 years old.
  • The pilot should pass a proficiency exam for drones over 7 kg.

Privacy and Data Collection:

  • It’s crucial to respect the privacy of individuals. Don’t capture or distribute images/videos without the subjects’ consent.
  • You must not fly in areas where capturing images or data might pose national security concerns.

Permits Required:

General Flying Permit:

  • Drones weighing more than 250 grams require a permit.
  • For recreational use of drones weighing less than 7 kg, the permit process is relatively straightforward. You might still need to notify local authorities about your flight plans.
  • For drones more than 7 kg or for commercial purposes, the permitting process is more stringent and might require additional documentation and checks.

Special Permissions:

  • If you wish to fly in restricted areas or during night-time, you’ll need special permissions.

Regulations on the Type of Drone and Purpose of Flying:

Recreational Use:

  • Most recreational drone flights are permitted under the general guidelines as long as they weigh under 7 kg and the pilot adheres to the flight restrictions.

Commercial Use:

  • For drones used for commercial purposes (e.g., filming, agriculture, surveys), a commercial use permit is needed. Additional documentation about the drone’s purpose, its technical specifications, and potential flight paths might be required.
  • Commercial drone pilots may need to undergo more rigorous training and certification.

Research and Development:

  • If the drone is used for research purposes, special permissions might be needed, especially if the drone is experimental in nature or exceeds the general weight and size restrictions.


It’s recommended to get third-party liability insurance for your drone. This covers potential damages your drone might cause to property or individuals.

Tips for Flying Drones in Shanghai:

  • Always check for temporary or new flight restrictions, as these can change.
  • Respect local customs and traditions. Even if you’re allowed to fly in a particular area, local residents might have concerns. It’s always a good idea to seek permission or at least notify local authorities or communities.
  • Stay updated with CAAC’s regulations. They might change or update their guidelines periodically.


Flying drones illegally in Shanghai or any other part of China can lead to severe penalties, including fines, confiscation of the drone, or even imprisonment in extreme cases.

DJI Geofencing

DJI uses geofencing technology in their drones. This technology prevents drones from flying in restricted areas or areas of potential concern for reasons like safety, security, or privacy. Shanghai, like many major cities worldwide, has various zones that are restricted or sensitive for drone flights.

How DJI Geofencing Works:

Fly Zones: DJI classifies different areas into zones based on the flight restrictions:

  • Green Zones: Authorization Zones. In these zones, users are prompted by the DJI GO app or other DJI drone software to unlock the zone after agreeing to bear full responsibility for the flight.
  • Red Zones: Restricted Zones. In these zones, drones cannot take off or fly into this area because of national security concerns or safety concerns.
  • Grey Zones: Altitude Zones. These dictate a ceiling to your drone’s altitude in certain areas.

Unlocking Zones: Users can unlock Authorization Zones if they have verified their DJI account and accept the necessary legal responsibilities. For Restricted Zones, unlocking is more complex and may require special permission.

Updates: DJI regularly updates its geofencing database to incorporate new or changed restricted zones. If a user’s drone software is up-to-date, the geofence data should reflect the latest restricted areas.

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs): DJI’s geofencing system also considers temporary flight restrictions, such as those put in place during major public events or natural disasters.

DJI GEO System: The Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) system provides DJI drone users with real-time information about areas where flights may be restricted due to safety or security concerns, giving pilots the information they need to make informed decisions about where and when to fly.

If you’re operating a DJI drone in Shanghai, the geofencing technology will:

  • Prevent you from inadvertently flying into restricted zones like those near airports, government buildings, and military installations.
  • Notify you of areas where you need special permission or authorization to fly.
  • Potentially update temporary no-fly zones, for example, if there’s a major event in Shanghai.

Always ensure your DJI GO app or relevant DJI software is updated to get the latest geofence data. Additionally, while geofencing is a valuable tool, it shouldn’t replace the pilot’s responsibility to be aware of and adhere to local regulations and always prioritize safety.

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