Complex Made Simple

Drone grounds Dubai airport again as UAE finalises new law

Unauthorised drone activity has once again caused turbulence in the hot air of Dubai, resulting in the complete closure of airspace around the city’s busy international airport for nearly half-an-hour on Wednesday morning.


Operator Dubai Airports said the airspace around Dubai International (DXB) was closed from 8:08am to 8:35am this morning due to unauthorised drone activity, which led to a number of delays at the airport.


“Arrival operations resumed at 0835 hrs and departures at 0840 hrs with some restrictions. Full operations were resumed at 0907 hrs,” it said in a statement sent out to the media.


Dubai Airports said it was working closely with its stakeholders to minimise customer inconvenience.


It warned all UAV operators “that any and all activities are not permitted unless authorised by regulatory authorities and are strictly prohibited in restricted areas including within five kilometres of any airport or landing area.”


The latest incident comes after the UAE’s aviation watchdog announced two days ago that it will finalise laws to more heavily regulate the sale of drones and their operations soon, aiming to minimise risks posed by unmanned aerial vehicles.


“Several incidents have happened and to integrate them (drones) safely into the commercial airspace is a challenge,” Mohammed Faisal al-Dossari, director, air navigation and aerodromes department, UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), said on Monday.


The airport was earlier closed for more than an hour on June 12 due to unauthorised drone activity in the surrounding airspace, which resulted in millions of dollars of losses for the economy.


Dubai-based newspaper Khaleej Times had quoted Michael Rudolph, head of aviation regulation and safety at the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), in a report on June 12 as saying that “$1 million per minute – that’s what it cost the economy of Dubai”, while referring to a drone incursion into the airport in January last year, which shut down operations for 55 minutes.


Current regulations on drones in the UAE, introduced in April 2015, relate mainly to commercial licensing and approving how companies use drones. These regulations are under constant development, al-Dossari told reporters at a regional conference on drones in the UAE capital.


“The Emirates Authority for Standardisation & Metrology (Esma) is working on laws that will have a framework for the UAE for imports, sales and performance of drones,” he said.


Abu Dhabi has banned the sale of recreational drones since March last year until new laws are issued, saying they posed a risk to aviation.


The new laws will also address air-worthiness for heavier drones, standards for pilotless aircraft and pilot training, among other issues, al-Dossari said.


At least 400 drones, mostly commercial, are registered with the GCAA. They are used for commercial operations such as mapping, security surveillance and wildlife surveys, as well as for environment, transport, agricultural and maritime purposes, among others, in the UAE.


As a regional aviation hub with two of the busiest airports in the world, the UAE’s airspace is congested. And with drones becoming increasingly relevant, there are safety and security risks, Gulf area manager at IATA, the global body of airlines, Michael Herrero, said.


“The big question is how to integrate drones into commercial airspace in future, governments need to put it high on the agenda with enforceable legislation,” he said.


(With inputs from Reuters)