UAE drone users must register themselves and their device under strict new rules

Customers will not be able to take drones out of the store until they register with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority under new rules to be introduced after Ramadan this year.

A ‘Sky Commander’ tracking device must be attached to any drone cleared to fly in approved zones so that it can be tracked. Reem Mohammed / The National
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DUBAI // Customers buying drones will soon be unable to take them from shops until they register them and complete a training course.

The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority is planning to introduce registration cards for hobbyists and professionals, under rules to be brought in after Ramadan. A customs release letter will be needed for drones bought online.

“Each registration will be vetted for security and their skill level will also be tested by approved bodies,” said Michael Rudolph, head of the authority’s airspace safety section.

When buying a drone, a customer will be given a receipt and leaflet explaining the registration process. They then must enrol in an approved training course and submit the certificate to the authority.

Once this and a security clearance is complete, the customer can receive the card and return to the retailer to collect the drone.

A “Sky Commander” tracking device must also be attached to any drone cleared to fly in approved zones. The device records the area, height and speed of flight and the authority automatically checks for offences.

In case of an alert, Dubai aviation officials can contact the operator to ask about a violation or order an end to the flight. All information will be stored in the operator’s records.

Officials are working with the Government, the Ministry of Defence and Dubai Police on registration and the live-tracking device, said Khaled Al Arif, the authority’s executive director of safety.

Airspace in Dubai has been closed four times because of intrusion by drones, causing flight cancellations that cost the economy millions of dirhams.

“While the closures are not due to registered drones, we feel that people need to become aware of the regulations and about the consequences,” Mr Al Arif said at the World Aviation Safety Summit in Dubai on Tuesday.

Stiff fines of up to Dh20,000 for unregistered drone users come into effect next month, following regulations approved by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

Fifty-seven commercial drone operators and about 1,000 hobbyists are registered with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

Registration cards for commercial operators will be marked with a red stripe and hobbyists with blue. A white temporary card will be issued to operators visiting for a specified time period.The type of drone will be listed on the back of the card.

“If Dubai Police or any authority sees this, they have been briefed about the stripes and know you are registered, so unless you are creating a menace or operating where you shouldn’t be, you will not be bothered,” Mr Rudolph said.

The authority requires users to obtain approval in advance before flying drones. Operators can file applications online, providing information about the area, parameters and altitude where the drone will be used. The highest altitude permitted is 400 feet (about 120 metres).

The plans include efforts to educate people about drone use. Last year, the authority demarcated no-fly zones for drones includingairports, military installations, sensitive locations and palaces.

“If you know your details and the drone serial number are in a database, the chances of you operating outside the realm of what constitutes safe and orderly operations can be minimised,” Mr Rudolph said.

“This is how we can further enhance safety and ensure all operators, whether hobbyists or commercial, know what the requirements are when they operate.”​