Ig­no­rance could end in drone dis­as­ter

... but af­ter air­port chief calls for ac­tion, 7DAYS finds shops and users don’t know the rules

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Shoshana Ke­dem @B_Shosh

Ig­no­rant drone users and re­tail­ers will con­tinue to wreak havoc on the UAE’s avi­a­tion sec­tor un­less ac­tion is taken to ed­u­cate them on no-fly zones.

Drones are in the spot­light fol­low­ing Satur­day night’s in­ci­dent in which an un­li­censed drone was flown near Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port, forc­ing the clo­sure of airspace around Dubai and Shar­jah air­ports for more than an hour. More than 40 flights were di­verted. Saif Al Suwaidi, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the Gen­eral Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity (GCAA), said drone buy­ers must reg­is­ter their de­vices and know where they can and can’t fly un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs).

He told 7DAYS: “The key el­e­ment of min­imis­ing these ac­tiv­i­ties is to ed­u­cate the users, and par­ents – users are mainly teens and are maybe not aware of the con­se­quences and ex­tent of the harm that they cause to the avi­a­tion in­dus­try in the UAE.”

A 2015 law dic­tates that re­tail­ers must ad­vise drone buy­ers to reg­is­ter on­line with the GCAA be­fore rip­ping their toy out the box, Suwaidi said.

He said: “All sell­ing points should ad­vise the buyer to pro­ceed to reg­is­ter the prod­uct with the GCAA on­line.”

How­ever, 7DAYS can­vassed a dozen drone stock­ists, re­ceiv­ing dif­fer­ent in­for­ma­tion each time.

Many re­tail­ers said there was no need to reg­is­ter the drone.

One drone user told 7DAYS: “I’ve no idea of rules. I re­ceived mine as a gift.”

Dubai Air­ports CEO Paul Grif­fiths called for changes to drone tech­nol­ogy, to stop them fly­ing near air­ports, be­fore tragedy strikes.

Speak­ing to Dubai Eye 103.8’s Busi­ness Break­fast pro­gramme yes­ter­day, Grif­fiths said: “We’ve heard in­ci­dents of air­craft hav­ing near-misses with drones in Lon­don and var­i­ous other places, so some­thing needs to be done about this ur­gently be­fore there is a dis­as­ter. Some­thing has to be done here, but there is more than the rep­u­ta­tional dam­age, our con­cern is the safety an­gle.” Grif­fiths added that “un­for­tu­nately you have to start see­ing peo­ple suf­fer for the con­se­quences of ig­nor­ing those reg­u­la­tions be­fore they start to con­sider al­ter­na­tive ac­tiv­i­ties rather than in­vad­ing con­trolled airspace”. The air­port chief said drones should not be sold in the UAE with­out a ‘ge­ofenc­ing’ mi­crochip. He said: “You could cre­ate these in­vis­i­ble fences in the sky be­yond which drones could not be op­er­ated. It seems to be a good tech­ni­cal so­lu­tion.” Al Suwaidi said to help users un­der­stand their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, the GCAA has launched an app for reg­is­tered users, de­mar­cat­ing re­stricted ar­eas. He said: “We have de­signed an app for the op­er­a­tor that would help them in defin­ing the ar­eas where they can op­er­ate the drone as a hobby.”

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