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| 16 January, 2018

Legal nod needed to fly drones in Oman

It is illegal to fly drones in Oman without the necessary approvals

Image used for illustrative purpose. An airplane flies over a drone during the Polar Bear Plunge on Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York January 1, 2015. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is one of the oldest winter bathing organizations in the United States and holds a New Year's Day plunge every year.     REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Image used for illustrative purpose. An airplane flies over a drone during the Polar Bear Plunge on Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York January 1, 2015. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is one of the oldest winter bathing organizations in the United States and holds a New Year's Day plunge every year. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Muscat: People using remote-controlled flying gadgets, including drones, can be imprisoned for three years for violating the civil aviation rules of the country, according to Oman’s Penal Code.

Article 144 of Oman’s new Penal Code says that it is illegal to fly drones in Oman without the necessary approvals. “It is prohibited to fly over Oman by any means without the authorisation of the competent authorities. And if you are flying without a licence, you will be breaking the law.

Even taking photographs, drawings or mapping with the help of drones is not allowed without permission,” according to the newly introduced Oman Penal Code. People flouting these norms will be imprisoned for a period not less than six months and not more than three years, it states.

Unauthorised drones pose a threat to the safety of people as well air passengers.“Sometimes, it affects flight operations as well,” noted Wasim Zaidi, general manager, Oman, Jet Airways.

Wasim recalled an incident when a flight had to circle the airport for more than 90 minutes as a drone was in its flight path.

“So they should stay away from the flight path under any circumstances,” he added.

Every month, the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) receives 10 to 15 applications for approval. “Anyone in Oman or abroad who wants to fly a drone in Oman can fill in the form and provide the necessary details and the PACA will take it up for further approval from other departments and get back to the client,” an official stated. Several organisations in Oman use drones for imaging and inspection, especially in the oil and gas sector.

More than 90 per cent of the drones in Oman are used for aerial photography, which is a major reason for delays in licencing, as capturing homes and restricted areas can breach privacy and act as a potential security threat.

In some cases, licences are denied because the operational area of the drone is in proximity to restricted areas.“We generally don’t give any permissions for non-flight routes, within a 5-km radius around the airport, or above a height of 400 metres,” revealed a PACA official.

Photographers working in Oman, however, welcomed the move.“I hope they issue a clear law that will control the process for photographers and amateurs.

Some hobbyists misuse drones and are not familiar with flying.

If a detailed law and conditions of association are stipulated, it will solve many problems for this beautiful hobby,” Haitham Ba Omar, a photographer remarked.

In 2009, the Petroleum Development of Oman became the first organisation to obtain a licence for the commercial use of drones in Oman. Airline officials say unregulated drones can compromise aircraft safety. Last year, a misused recreational drone, or an unmanned aerial vehicle, forced Dubai airport operations to stop for 55 minutes as it flew near the flight path of commercial airlines.

Oman has also recorded a number of incidents in the recent past where drones entered planes’ flight paths.

Although these drones are not easily available in Oman, people buy them abroad and bring them into the country. “These drones are available everywhere now and people can easily buy them, but they have no awareness (of how to use them).They need to know that these drones cannot be flown anywhere near airports or flight paths,” an airline official pointed out.

According to the precautionary measures prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation on air navigation safety, flights have to be stopped if airports find any drones or flying objects in a plane’s flight path.

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© Times of Oman 2018