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UAE approves new drone regulations

The UAE has introduced new regulations for the commercial and recreational use of drones, state news agency WAM has reported.03 May 2017

The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) has endorsed new regulatory standards including a surveillance system for detecting unmanned aerial vehicles, WAM said.

Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, the chairman of ESMA's board, said a central system will be established to monitor drones through a mandatory serial number to be included in products by manufacturers, with a view to creating a nationwide database for aerial products, WAM reported.

The new regulations will apply to both recreational and commercial users, including in free zones, and to both self-assembled and ready-for-use products, WAM said.

ESMA developed the mechanism in collaboration with the General Civil Aviation Administration, GCAA, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, the Federal Customs Authority and the Ministry of Interior and Dubai Police General Command to prevent any negative effects on the flow of air traffic and public, private and institutional property, WAM said.

Regulatory expert Damian Crosse of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "The new regulations reinforce how seriously the UAE authorities take the risks associated with drones, particularly around airports after several closures of Dubai airport in the past 12 months."

"It was only a matter of time before further regulations were introduced and the UAE authorities have moved very quickly to introduce these new measures. Drones have many positive qualities but also pose a real risk to health and safety and peoples’ privacy if not used responsibly," Crosse said.

The GCAA's director general Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi said in March that the authority was working with ESMA on the standards, and that the UAE would ban the import of any drones that did not meet the rules.

The UAE was looking into the possibility of 'geo-fencing', where GPS or RFID technology is used to create a virtual geographic boundary to restrict where drones can fly, but must ensure it will not affect other aircraft, he said at the time.

The UAE already has regulations on the use of drones, with three years in jail or a fine of AED100,000 ($27,000) for using a drone over a prohibited zones such as Dubai International Airport, Al Maktoum Airport, the Al Minhad air base and the Palm Jumeirah near Skydive Dubai, according to Arabian Business.

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority issued guidelines in 2015 to recreational drone users in the UK, reminding them to fly "safely and legally" and not use cameras within 50 metres of people, buildings or vehicles. It recently closed a public consultation on proposed changes to the regulation. 

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