The UAE’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) has imposed restrictions on flying drones and other light aircraft. The new decision came into effect in January 2022. It was directed to all drone owners, practitioners and enthusiasts. Strict new decisions were taken against Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) because of the largescale misuse by drone operators. There were frequent reports of drone operators trespassing into prohibited zones, endangering lives and property.
The new order is not only issued for a drone but covers air and sail sports as well. General Authority of Civil Aviation was coordinated while framing this order, which is in line with the relative guidelines. The ministry asked the community and people not to indulge in unsafe practices and respect the guidelines issued by MoI and GCAA.
Who can operate or fly drones?
According to a notification issued in January 2022 by the Ministry of Interior, only companies with contracts or commercial or advertising projects can approach the authorities for permits. Any organization that relies on filming using drones for work can get necessary exceptions and permits to carry out their work and projects. However, people who use UAVs for recreational purposes are not allowed to do so. The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority also suspended all issued NOCs given to UAVs for individuals.
General rules for flying drones in Dubai
The UAE has separate regulations for individuals and organizations. The individual’s category belongs to drone enthusiasts who want to fly drones or UAVs for recreational purposes. The second category is organization or operator (commercial and non-commercial). For example, photography, aerial survey, etc.
Specific guidelines are provided to the second category of drone operators, and GCAA has provided an all-in-one app (My Drone Hub) to assist them. The app facilitates and helps identify all the areas where photography is permitted. The general height for drones is limited to 400 feet. The app helps locate the information about the place with the help of an interactive map. Some more points are as follows:
- The user and the drone must be registered with the DCAA before use.
- For registration, you need photos of the drone and a training certificate.
- The weight of the drones is limited to 5 KG and must fly only in the location marked in the mobile application.
- You can use drone cameras only in zones where it is allowed.
- The drone must not have a drop or release device.
- The drone must be in the line of sight and must not fly above 400 feet.
- The drone certified for recreational purposes must be used only for fun and not for commercial purposes. However, it is banned till further notice.
- The time to fly drones is during the daytime and in good weather conditions.
- The drone must be flown according to the manufacturer’s instructions and must be inspected before the flight.
- The users must not fly the drones near public or private property.
- There should be a direct radio link between the drones and the users. A frequency of 29.7-47.0 Mhz and max power of 10 mW or 2400-2500 MHz and max power of 100 mW.
- No user can fly drones within 5 km of UAE airport outer fence, helicopter landing sites, and airfields.
- The fliers must be careful while flying and take precautions to avoid collision with objects, buildings, people and other manned and unmanned aircraft.
- The users must inform the authority through DCAA website of the ‘My Drone’ app if they intend to sell the drones.
- The drones over 5 kg or equipped with a gas engine or both must operate within the flying clubs approved by GCAA.
- For flying a drone over 25 kgs, the user must be over 21 years.
Where can’t you fly drones?
Till June 2022, there was no further notice (after January 2022) by the authorities regarding the drone permission for individuals.
Dubai Municipality banned the flying of drones over parks in March 2021. Moreover, the individuals were not allowed to operate drones and other UAVs in residential areas, sighting the residents’ privacy. Along with residential areas, drones are also prohibited in sensitive areas, airports, installations for defense, telecommunications, etc.
How much is the fine?
According to Article 69 of the GCAA, any individual violating UAV rules can be jailed for a year or fined up to AED 50,000 or both. Some of the violations are listed below:
- Flying without authorization or permit from the competent authority;
- Piloting an aircraft without holding the required certificate, licenses or authorizations;
- Piloting an aircraft when drunk;
- Causing damage to aeronautical communication facilities or navigation aids on the ground;
- Failing to enter the required information in the documents or records of the aircraft or altering such information.
People caught flying drones during the prohibition may face prison sentences ranging from six months to five years. They could potentially face a Dh 100,000 fine.
Do you need a license to fly a drone in Dubai?
Anyone who wants to fly a drone must get a license from DCAA. You can register for an operator training certificate program and get your RPAS certifications. Make sure DCAA endorses the program.
How to register drones in UAE?
All drones in UAE must get registered with GCAA. Both individuals and organizations can apply online. You can contact the GCAA aircraft registry unit via email or phone to register your UAVs. Once the device is registered, you receive a digitally issued ESMA certificate. Each registered device contains a unique identification number that can help you identify the manufacturer, distributor and the customer who buys it.
Whenever a problem arises, the ESMA can trace all information. If you plan to sell or give away your drone to someone else, make sure that you apply for a transfer of ownership through the ‘My Drone Hub’ app. It’s similar to the transfer of ownership of a vehicle. The transfer also ensures that you hold no liability in the future if the drone is involved in an accident or other legal complications.
Registration requirements for recreational drone
The registration process is simple and quick. You just need to log in at the DCAA registration site, apply for the service, pay, and quickly get the approval. It is recommended to print the approval and keep a copy with yourself.
The service fee for registration is as follows:
- Professional: AED 100
- Hobbyist: AED 100
- Tourist: AED 100
- Knowledge Dirham Fees (KDF): AED 10
- Innovation Fee: AED 10
The drone ban was further extended in February 2022, and there was no update till this article was published. It is expected the government is going to come up with stricter drone regulations. In the light of the fatal drone bomb attacks in Yemen in February 2022, the move is welcomed by both citizens and authorities.
Entities with work or commercial contracts can advertise projects that rely on drone filming and must get a permit from the authorities. Necessary exceptions and permits are issued for the commercial use of drones. Anyone disregarding the rules and guidelines may have to face legal consequences.