Licensed drone pilot tells users to stick to rules after dramas
Drones are in the spotlight after a UAV was flown near Dubai International Airport last weekend forcing the closure of the city’s airspace for more than an hour – the third such incident this year.
Emirates and Dubai Airports have since called on the authorities to act, including installing trackers into devices, drone detectors around the airport and making an example of offenders.
But the rules and regulations are complex and just 400 users have signed-up to the mandatory registration process.
It is thought the actual number of drone users is far higher.
Here, licensed drone pilot Hatem Bitar, an audio and video engineer, explains the process and gives his view on recent airport incursions.
Buying a drone appears to be very easy and you don’t have to sign anything in-store – but registration is mandatory. Could you talk us through the process?
“When you buy a drone you have to understand you are buying a device that is not a toy.
“So that’s why you have to register it, just like you do before you drive a car.
“As a drone buyer you fall into one of two categories: either the skilled drone operator or the unskilled drone operator. If you’re a skilled drone operator then you don’t have to go for the drone training course. “If you’re not, there is only one academy that does the training and certification, it’s in Dubai and it’s called Sanad Academy. So this is the only place where it is authorised to check, certify and do the training on drone flying.”
What do you study at Sanad Academy? “If you don’t have a certification you need to attend an exam, which is in three parts: one part is theoretical, then a simulation on the computer, then an actual drone flight. “Once they glean that you can fly a drone safely they will give you a certification. You take the certification and they will give you a drone registration number. “You take a photo of this certification and a photo of your drone with the registration tag stuck on it and then you upload it on the GCAA website.
“Once you upload it on the GCAA website they will give you a reference number. After one week they will give you the pilot registration card, which mentions your name, nationality, photo and the registration number of your drone.”
Do you believe many drone users have actually registered and got a licence?
“From my experience you have maybe 5 per cent of the actual drones in the UAE registered – and this is very alarming.
“Even if you buy a small toy those are really dangerous and can kill someone if it falls on their head. Some people try to test the range and they get it out of control and it could get in the pathway of the plane – it’s really dangerous.”
What could happen if you fly a drone without training, a licence and registration?
If you are flying with a registration in a restricted zone, you are in trouble, but if you’re flying without a registration in a restricted zone, you are in really deep trouble.
How have the recent incidents at the airport affected licensed drone users?
The designated areas are available on the GCAA website, you just download the map. But what is happening nowadays is that 15-16 year-old children are buying drones and flying them, getting in trouble and this is affecting everybody, including the registered people.
“They are making the laws strict, it is giving drone pilots a bad reputation, because of the childish things they are doing.”