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| 16 October, 2017

Tourists will soon be allowed to fly drones in Dubai

Image used for illustrative purposes. Drone. Silhouette against the sunset sky.

Image used for illustrative purposes. Drone. Silhouette against the sunset sky.

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New regulation announced on sidelines of two-day Unmanned Aerial System Forum.

Aviation authorities are working on a mechanism where tourists can register online and get a certificate subject to an in-house validation of their skills in Dubai, which will allow them to fly their drones around landmarks in Dubai.

The new regulation was announced on the sidelines of the two-day Unmanned Aerial System Forum, which began on Monday in Dubai.

Also on Monday, a top official at the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority revealed that tourists have dropped 12 drones on the premises of a famous landmark hotel in Dubai in the past year and a half.

The tourists were unaware that the radio frequency will go out of reach when flying around such a large hotel, the head of airspace safety section at the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), Michael Rudolph, told Khaleej Times at the sidelines of the two-day Unmanned Aerial System Forum in Dubai.

The management of the hotel reported the incident to the DCAA each time a drone would land near their hotel and the authorities would come and retrieve it.

As for residents, there are several regulations that are put in place to legally allow them to operate drones in the country.

All drone operators, whether hobbyists or commercial, are required to register their drone and the pilot with the DCAA. It is mandatory for all drone pilots to obtain a drone licence, which permits them to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Rudolph revealed the authority expects to accumulate an overall figure of 5,000 drone registrations by the end of this year.

"The resolution number 4 of 2017 allows the fines as well as a prosecution if you do not register your drone and yourself with reference to this entity," Rudolph said.

"The fine varies. It could be up to Dh20,000 and also a prison sentence so it's really not worth not taking a chance of not registering with the DCAA."

Since 2015, there have been four incidents where drones have caused either the Dubai or Sharjah airports to shut down, costing the aviation industry millions of dollars. Following this incidents, strict regulations have come into place for drone usage in the UAE.

Rudolph said no one has been fined as of yet for flying an unregistered drone because the authorities are "still tolerating and educating".

Insurance made mandatory

Insurance is made mandatory for commercial-purpose drones to protect the company and the drone against liability, it was announced at the forum on Monday.

The forum, which was hosted by the Dubai Police in partnership with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), brought together UAE authorities and drone operators to discuss latest UAV regulations and requirements for safe drone usage in the country.

"The minimum liability coverage is Dh3.67million as per the UAE rule by the DCAA. The minimum premium is around Dh1,750," Amit Kumar, the business development executive at JLT - an insurance firm that insures drones, told Khaleej Times.

"But the companies who have more risk can go for higher minimum. The coverage is this much because you could fly into the security zone or somewhere that is not allowed. The commercial users have more risk."

"For drones, insurance is very important. If you have any flying object there is a risk. First risk is for the drone itself, if it falls down and damages itself. Commercial drone users are required to have insurance in order to obtain their flying license."

The minimum premium for commercial-purpose drones is quite high, however, an official with the DCAA has insisted that a cheaper option will be available to hobbyists by the end of this year.

Currently, insurance is only mandatory for commercial drones, however, recreational drones will also require insurance once the different type of insurance packages have been introduced.

Michael Rudolph told Khaleej Times: "We are looking at something whereby we can affiliate it with the registration process, so the operator would need to have insurance for that, the same you would need for your motor vehicle, just to make sure that if you bump into something you're not going to be liable for those damages. And that's the kind of package we're looking at. We don't want it to cost too much because then people won't do it."

Authorities are tracking all drone activity in Dubai

All commercial drones are being tracked through a live streaming video available through an online portal available to authorities and private companies.

The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority has introduced a tracking device that can be fitted onto newer and smaller drones, so that they can be tracked via a live stream.

The tracking is to ensure that the drones do not fly into the no-fly zone areas such as the airports, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority power plants, Dubai World Central, Marina and Skydive and Minbad Air Base.

Officials can monitor drone activities through a live stream video in control room, and if they're not in the office, they can still monitor through their mobile phones. If a restricted area has been breached by a drone, authorised personnel will also receive an alert on their phones.

"The UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) technology is developing at such a rapid rate, we need to measure that the public is well informed and we need to stay in touch with the technology," the head of airspace safety section at the DCAA," head of airspace safety section at the DCAA, Michael Rudolph said.

"In other words, we need to stay in touch with the developers of this technology in terms of where they're going so that we can develop the framework of regulations around that, so it's very important to stay up to date with the technology.

"The framework of regulations is changing virtually on every quarter because the technology is improving that much. The technology is getting smaller, the camera devices on the drones are getting better so we need to adapt."

Meanwhile, more than 70 drone enthusiasts registered their drones for free at the first day of the Unmanned Aerial System Forum in Dubai.

Being held at the Palazzo Versace Hotel, drone owners had to take a written exam, as well as a practical flying test in order to get their drone licence.

The cost to register a drone and obtain a pilot licence can cost anywhere between Dh350 to Dh950, however, residents had a unique opportunity to register for free during the forum.

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