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The crazy drone (and aviation) rules of Hainan (I got jammed?)

Heindrich1988

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I recently went to Sanya, Hainan, for a week-long holiday. Whilst it was truly beautiful, it was much less welcoming of drones compared to Dongguan, where I've been staying since I got my Mavic Air 2. It was interesting to see the difference in attitude towards drones within even the same country, albeit a very large one in the case of China.

There were clear signs at the entrance of the most popular attraction (Guanyin of Nanshan) forbidding drones, so I obediently did not even take my bird out of my bag. At Yanoda rainforest park, there were no signs, but a park employee told me to stop flying once I got spotted close to the main attraction there (a glass bridge). The frustrating thing is that both of those attractions use extensive drone footage in their marketing! Whilst I understand and respect the restrictions at the Guanyin of Nanshan (it is a crowded religious site and most airliners approaching Sanya Airport fly around the statue for some traditional reasons), I don't get get why a massive rain-forest park would be so touchy about paying customers taking some drone footage over what is mostly just wild jungle.

The really crazy stuff was in Sanya city itself. Most of the city was controlled airspace of various categories (or no-fly zones near the airport or military bases). I could take off from controlled airspace zones, but I was limited to altitudes of 120m, 90m or 60m depending on category. What made this crazy was that during the day, there were tour helicopters flying around Phoenix Island and along Sanya beach at altitudes much lower than that! How low am I talking about? My hotel room on Phoenix Island was on the 11th floor... helicopters regularly flew lower than my balcony! To add to the craziness, there were also fixed-wing seaplanes which took off and landed close to shore (where there's loads of fishing boats and tourist yachts) and they flew as low as maybe 100m.

I was surprised that I could take off at all in this crazy environment. Yet, aside from meaningless (due to low altitude of helicopters) altitude restrictions, there were no drone restrictions on Sanya Beach. In one afternoon walk of about 2hrs along the beach, I saw three other drone pilots. I carefully flew a little myself with my girlfriend as my spotter. At one point, a helicopter roared along the shoreline so low that I actually flew higher to ensure that it did not hit me. I'm pretty sure that they aren't allowed to fly over land, so I mostly stayed out of the ocean. That was the only time that I flew with any manned aircraft in the vicinity. I was amazed that helicopters and sea planes are seemingly allowed to operate so low and so close to shore, and drones aren't totally banned from the beach to accommodate them.

I tried to fly from two more locations in Sanya city. Namely from my hotel grounds on Phoenix Island and the top of a mountain/hill in Luhuitou Park, which flank the entrance to Sanya Harbour. During the day, the airspace above the harbour is basically helicopter highway, not to mention the constantly stream of boat traffic, so I did not dream to fly there during the day. However, I could take off safely in the early mornings and evenings from both locations.

Luhuitou Park was the first time that I experienced possible jamming. Barely a few hundred meters out and well within line of sight, my signal strength dropped significantly and an “aircraft signal interference” warning popped up on the top left. Having seen videos of Chinese jamming guns that can force drones to land, I took no chances, stayed moving and landed quickly. A while later, I noticed another drone in the air which hovered in the same spot high up for around 15mins. I found its pilot as the drone came in to land. Turns out that she was a new pilot flying the Mini 2, which is why she just shot aerial footage from high up with minimal movement. She said that the only time she experienced signal interference was when she tried to fly in the direction of a nearby military base (Which is a no-fly zone marked on the map). The fact that she hovered for so long without being shot down gave me the confidence to take off again, but signal interference again prevented me from going very far at all. I also experienced what happens when you fly towards the boundary of a no-fly zone. i.e., drone refuses to move forwards anymore, working as intended.

The riskiest experience I had with possible jamming was when I flew from my hotel grounds in the early morning. I experienced unpredictable signal interference even though the harbour was devoid of moving vessels and it was well before the helicopter rides started. At one point, with my drone maybe just 200-300m away, I lost RC connection completely for what felt like ages, but in hindsight, was probably closer to 5 seconds. Just as I started to get seriously worried, my baby reconnected just as it reached its preset RTH altitude.

I didn’t want to push my luck too much and landed promptly after getting most of the Phoenix Island shots that I wanted. Even now, I don’t know whether the signal inference was due to Wi-Fi noise, manned aircraft, active jamming (i.e., somebody aiming at my drone deliberately) or passive jamming (non-directed signal jammer). If I was jammed, I don’t know who did it or from where. In Luhuitou Park, I couldn’t work out any patterns to the interference. On Phoenix Island, I noticed that I was able to get pretty close to my hotel building (one of the five towers) without any issues. I was even able to shoot a squadron of docked coastguard vessels about 100-200m away without much issue (I didn’t actually fly towards them). So, my best guess is the large 25k ton cruise ship docked next to my take off location. I later discovered that this particular ship took tourists on cruises to the contested Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it were equipped with some additional equipment to deal with drones.

My final completely failed attempt to fly was onboard a small cruise ship. Most people went on it for the diving and swimming. I went on the day-cruise hoping to shoot some ocean drone footage whilst the ship was anchored. Unfortunately, the dive site was a complete no-fly zone, presumably due to the proximity of a military base and a large naval vessel not far away.

In summary (tl:dr)... it was frustrating not being able to fly in various locations in and around Sanya. Sometimes it was completely reasonable, other times, it seemed completely arbitrary. It was also bizarre that you are allowed to fly on Sanya Beach, despite the constant low-flying helicopter and sea plane tours. Signal interference was scary, though I still don't know if it was incidental signal disruption, intentional targeted jamming, or passive area of denial jamming. I guess that's what happens when you have a bustling tourist city that also happens to be strategically placed, so home to all sorts of coastguard, naval, radar and other military installations. It's like they want people to have fun (Sanya feels very chaotic compared to the rest of China), but not too much fun. lol
 
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You can’t fly in national parks in Oz without permission. It seems strange the home of DJI would be so restricted. I haven’t seen too much in the way of video from ?? on the forum. I believe that some area’s are quite striking.
Regards
 
I recently went to Sanya, Hainan, for a week-long holiday. Whilst it was truly beautiful, it was much less welcoming of drones compared to Dongguan, where I've been staying since I got my Mavic Air 2. It was interesting to see the difference in attitude towards drones within even the same country, albeit a very large one in the case of China.

There were clear signs at the entrance of the most popular attraction (Guanyin of Nanshan) forbidding drones, so I obediently did not even take my bird out of my bag. At Yanoda rainforest park, there were no signs, but a park employee told me to stop flying once I got spotted close to the main attraction there (a glass bridge). The frustrating thing is that both of those attractions use extensive drone footage in their marketing! Whilst I understand and respect the restrictions at the Guanyin of Nanshan (it is a crowded religious site and most airliners approaching Sanya Airport fly around the statue for some traditional reasons), I don't get get why a massive rain-forest park would be so touchy about paying customers taking some drone footage over what is mostly just wild jungle.

The really crazy stuff was in Sanya city itself. Most of the city was controlled airspace of various categories (or no-fly zones near the airport or military bases). I could take off from controlled airspace zones, but I was limited to altitudes of 120m, 90m or 60m depending on category. What made this crazy was that during the day, there were tour helicopters flying around Phoenix Island and along Sanya beach at altitudes much lower than that! How low am I talking about? My hotel room on Phoenix Island was on the 11th floor... helicopters regularly flew lower than my balcony! To add to the craziness, there were also fixed-wing seaplanes which took off and landed close to shore (where there's loads of fishing boats and tourist yachts) and they flew as low as maybe 100m.

I was surprised that I could take off at all in this crazy environment. Yet, aside from meaningless (due to low altitude of helicopters) altitude restrictions, there were no drone restrictions on Sanya Beach. In one afternoon walk of about 2hrs along the beach, I saw three other drone pilots. I carefully flew a little myself with my girlfriend as my spotter. At one point, a helicopter roared along the shoreline so low that I actually flew higher to ensure that it did not hit me. I'm pretty sure that they aren't allowed to fly over land, so I mostly stayed out of the ocean. That was the only time that I flew with any manned aircraft in the vicinity. I was amazed that helicopters and sea planes are seemingly allowed to operate so low and so close to shore, and drones aren't totally banned from the beach to accommodate them.

I tried to fly from two more locations in Sanya city. Namely from my hotel grounds on Phoenix Island and the top of a mountain/hill in Luhuitou Park, which flank the entrance to Sanya Harbour. During the day, the airspace above the harbour is basically helicopter highway, not to mention the constantly stream of boat traffic, so I did not dream to fly there during the day. However, I could take off safely in the early mornings and evenings from both locations.

Luhuitou Park was the first time that I experienced possible jamming. Barely a few hundred meters out and well within line of sight, my signal strength dropped significantly and an “aircraft signal interference” warning popped up on the top left. Having seen videos of Chinese jamming guns that can force drones to land, I took no chances, stayed moving and landed quickly. A while later, I noticed another drone in the air which hovered in the same spot high up for around 15mins. I found its pilot as the drone came in to land. Turns out that she was a new pilot flying the Mini 2, which is why she just shot aerial footage from high up with minimal movement. She said that the only time she experienced signal interference was when she tried to fly in the direction of a nearby military base (Which is a no-fly zone marked on the map). The fact that she hovered for so long without being shot down gave me the confidence to take off again, but signal interference again prevented me from going very far at all. I also experienced what happens when you fly towards the boundary of a no-fly zone. i.e., drone refuses to move forwards anymore, working as intended.

The riskiest experience I had with possible jamming was when I flew from my hotel grounds in the early morning. I experienced unpredictable signal interference even though the harbour was devoid of moving vessels and it was well before the helicopter rides started. At one point, with my drone maybe just 200-300m away, I lost RC connection completely for what felt like ages, but in hindsight, was probably closer to 5 seconds. Just as I started to get seriously worried, my baby reconnected just as it reached its preset RTH altitude.

I didn’t want to push my luck too much and landed promptly after getting most of the Phoenix Island shots that I wanted. Even now, I don’t know whether the signal inference was due to Wi-Fi noise, manned aircraft, active jamming (i.e., somebody aiming at my drone deliberately) or passive jamming (non-directed signal jammer). If I was jammed, I don’t know who did it or from where. In Luhuitou Park, I couldn’t work out any patterns to the interference. On Phoenix Island, I noticed that I was able to get pretty close to my hotel building (one of the five towers) without any issues. I was even able to shoot a squadron of docked coastguard vessels about 100-200m away without much issue (I didn’t actually fly towards them). So, my best guess is the large 25k ton cruise ship docked next to my take off location. I later discovered that this particular ship took tourists on cruises to the contested Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it were equipped with some additional equipment to deal with drones.

My final completely failed attempt to fly was onboard a small cruise ship. Most people went on it for the diving and swimming. I went on the day-cruise hoping to shoot some ocean drone footage whilst the ship was anchored. Unfortunately, the dive site was a complete no-fly zone, presumably due to the proximity of a military base and a large naval vessel not far away.

In summary (tl:dr)... it was frustrating not being able to fly in various locations in and around Sanya. Sometimes it was completely reasonable, other times, it seemed completely arbitrary. It was also bizarre that you are allowed to fly on Sanya Beach, despite the constant low-flying helicopter and sea plane tours. Signal interference was scary, though I still don't know if it was incidental signal disruption, intentional targeted jamming, or passive area of denial jamming. I guess that's what happens when you have a bustling tourist city that also happens to be strategically placed, so home to all sorts of coastguard, naval, radar and other military installations. It's like they want people to have fun (Sanya feels very chaotic compared to the rest of China), but not too much fun. lol
That was an outstanding report. It's odd how the signal affected your drone but the girl with the Mini 2 didn't seem to have any problems. Particularly since they both use Occusync 2.0. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts and observations. They were interesting to say the least.

Monte
 
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My girlfriend owns a home in Hainan as well as one in Beijing and one in Guangzhou. Last time I was at Hainan there was a considerable military presence there. I'm guessing that may have something to do with the restrictions. I haven't been there in a couple of years and she has been living in the US since the pandemic hit.
 
You can’t fly in national parks in Oz without permission. It seems strange the home of DJI would be so restricted. I haven’t seen too much in the way of video from ?? on the forum. I believe that some area’s are quite striking.
Regards
You can in WA.
 
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Well, someone was flying around the statue at some point. :)

I suspect that was an approved flight by a professional hired specifically for that job. Drone footage is ubiquitous for pretty much all marketing and news reports in China now.

It was frustrating to see all these drone-shot marketing videos and then being told that I cannot fly there myself. But as I said, in the case of that particular landmark, I do understand why.
 
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That was an outstanding report. It's odd how the signal affected your drone but the girl with the Mini 2 didn't seem to have any problems. Particularly since they both use Occusync 2.0. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts and observations. They were interesting to say the least.

Monte

Actually she had issues too. She just encountered them less because she didn't move much. She was very new to drones and the Mini 2 was her first drone, so she literally just took off to 120m (the altitude limit) and looked around in every direction. When she did move around a little, she also encountered some interference, especially when flying in the direction of a nearby military base, which I suspect was the source of said interference.

She wasn't aware of devices that could be aimed at a drone and force it to land, so she pretty much just hovered in place. Whereas because I was worried about such devices, I tried to keep moving constantly so as to not provide an easy target. Turns out it was unnecessary cos she didn't get shot down. lol
 
My girlfriend owns a home in Hainan as well as one in Beijing and one in Guangzhou.

Woah... considering the property prices in Beijing and Guangzhou, she's RICH. Hold on tight! :D :p


Last time I was at Hainan there was a considerable military presence there. I'm guessing that may have something to do with the restrictions.

Yep, Sanya is the southernmost major city in China, so strategically rather important in the whole South China Sea issue. When I was there, there was a big navy ship anchored maybe a mile or two offshore. I'm pretty sure it was China's newest amphibious assault ship...

Just did a quick google search, looks like I was right.

China’s New Amphibious Assault Ship Sails into the South China Sea

This is the picture I took from the cruise ship mentioned in my OP:

WeChat Image_20210121185441.jpg
 
Woah... considering the property prices in Beijing and Guangzhou, she's RICH. Hold on tight! :D :p
She did very well for herself. She retired from a ping pong manufacturing company in Guangzhou when she was 50 and got a huge pay out when she retired. Her daughter married an American and I met her when she flew into the country for her daughter's wedding. We dated a couple of times when she was here and then when she flew back to China we kept in touch via QQ chat. She would then fly in and spend a month with me and then fly back home and work until she retired. When she retired she moved to the DFW area and started buying homes here. She stays mad at me because I won't ask her to marry me and it's cultural for her to want to be married. :)

This is my Ru at 56, she aged much better than I have.IMG_5768 (1).PNG
 
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Woah... considering the property prices in Beijing and Guangzhou, she's RICH. Hold on tight! :D :p




Yep, Sanya is the southernmost major city in China, so strategically rather important in the whole South China Sea issue. When I was there, there was a big navy ship anchored maybe a mile or two offshore. I'm pretty sure it was China's newest amphibious assault ship...

Just did a quick google search, looks like I was right.

China’s New Amphibious Assault Ship Sails into the South China Sea

This is the picture I took from the cruise ship mentioned in my OP:

View attachment 122178
Hello Heindrich1988! We must have been there at the exact same time and experienced the same issues. We arrive in Sanya on December 24 and departed back to Beijing on the 29th. In fact, the morning of the 29th before we left our hotel for the airport, that vessel you think was the ‘amphibious’ was an aircraft carrier that left port that morning. I will attach one of the photos I was able to take with my Mavic 2 Zoom. I was not stupid enough to get to close to it which was the beauty of the zoom! I also want to point out the vessel was in open unrestricted airspace when I was able to fly behind it.

WIth regard to the the airspace being very unprdictable in Sanya, I experienced the same ’crazy’ issues. I say crazy for this reason. We stayed Dadonghai Hotel in Dadonghai Bay. Just to the east of us was the restricted Navel base. According to the no fly zone map, believe it or not, our hotel room was exactly on the line of the zone. It went right through our hotel. What is funny is that if I tried to fly my Air 2 from the balcony, I would not allow me to. But I could fly my Mavic Zoom with no problem and no warning what so ever. In order to fly the Air 2, I had to take it out of the hotel west to the park right next door. Basically had to walk 10 meters to the west and I was fine. But then that meant I could not fly from the balcony of our hotel so the Air 2 did not get much fight time.

Just like you I also went to Luhuitou Park and flew from the top where the monument is. I thought I was well outside of restricted airspace. If I venture just 50 meters south of the park towards the harbor side I would get the warning as well on my screen and the drone would stop until I made the stick movements to return into the non-restricted area. Yet just four months prior to this time when I was staying in this same area, I had no warnings or jamming at all.

Also just like you in Dadonghai Bay they had a small Robson 44 helicopter operating small little tour flights around the harbor. Each flight was only maybe 40-60 seconds and never above maybe 20-30 meters. And one morning I went to fly from the beach to take pictures of my girfrind walking on the beach and there were 2 other drones flying as well. One had to be extremely aware of the helicopter flying back and forth while 3 drones were flying at the same height or higher than the helicopter. Kind of scary and a tragic accident waiting to happen if you ask me.

Anyways, small world it is as we were probably passed one another at some point during our stay there.

Regards and safe flight!AD119231-742B-402A-9EBD-AD1AE3404A38.jpeg4D836C21-000F-4AD7-A942-5D77F0C900D4.jpeg6ADE6322-99E7-4D19-86A7-838B2819E1AA.jpeg8CF00C36-8FA1-4B1C-B4B6-1FC5E50DBF51.jpeg
 
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@Gadgetdude Woah, that's some amazing pictures you took!

We just missed each other in Sanya! My girlfriend and I were there from the 17th to the 23rd, though technically we left in the early hours of the 24th due to our flight being delayed.

I'm SO jealous of your aircraft carrier shot! That's so unique and epic! I'm a bit of a military nerd and getting a shot like that would be a dream! However, it's not the same ship I saw...

The ship I saw was the Type 75 amphibious assault ship. It is a 40k tonne ship designed to carry helicopters, marine units and their equipment. China has only two of them, both in sea trials and not yet commissioned by the Peoples' Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), thus they haven't been named yet. The ship you captured so beautifully is one of two operational Chinese aircraft carriers, both of the 66k tonne Type 002 class. You can tell the difference easily by observing that the Type 75 has a flat flight deck, whereas the Type 002s have very noticeable ski-jumps at the front.

I was actually confused when I first saw the Type 75 from the heights of Luhuitou Park, because I didn't know China had any amphibious assault ships, so I was wondering what it could have been. I figured it was unlikely that China would be welcoming any port visits of foreign naval vessels given the recent tensions with the US, especially not an amphibious assault carrier, precisely the type of ship the US Navy would use to land marines on SCS islands or Hainan itself! lol

Based on the following article, the particular vessel you captured was the most likely the Shandong, China's second aircraft carrier.

China’s New Amphibious Assault Ship Sails into the South China Sea

Anyways, military geeking out aside, drone regulation in Sanya really is ridiculous (hence name of this thread). I had so much trouble trying to fly in completely safe areas (like up the mountain at Yanoda Park), but there was nothing stopping me from flying on a beach with constant low-flying helicopters! My hotel was on Phoenix Island (which no doubt you saw from Luhuitou Park), there's helicopters flying around it all day, and yet on the first day there, I saw a Mavic of some type flying straight into the "helicopter highway". It probably took off from the balcony of one of the hotel rooms. Absolute madness! Hopefully drones really aren't as dangerous to manned aircraft as we thought... or they stop such recklessness asap.

I'm guessing that the second picture is your wife/partner? She seems lovely. :) I wish my gal was more enthusiastic about my drone We were separated by the pandemic for a while last year, so I picked up drone videography as a hobby in my boredom. I was hoping she'd become my model and partner for future drone trips... but now she's back, she's really not keen on it and got annoyed whenever I spent too long trying to fly my Air 2 on our trip. :(
 
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Looking at the wake, the skipper of that carrier got real close to the rock at the bottom of frame. They must know the area really well. Or maybe not!
 
Used to be confused when my GPS would give directions in Western Australia, rather than Washington State. Have lived in both.... same abbreviation. G'day
 
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