Ignorance could end in drone disaster
... but after airport chief calls for action, 7DAYS finds shops and users don’t know the rules
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.”