His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai issued Law No. (4) of 2020 (the “Law”) on Saturday, 3 July 2020, regulating drone activity in Dubai.
Aside from military-purpose drones, which are exempt, this law applies to the activity of all types of drones across Dubai and its free zones. The new regulations aim to reduce the risks associated with drone activity by laying out a framework for the duties and responsibilities of relevant authorities as well as drone operators.
The increased safety and sound regulatory framework will also position Dubai as a hub for drone development and activity.
The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) plays a key role in implementing the regulations, including monitoring, and controlling drone activity in designated airspace, issuing permits, and outlining conditions and procedures for the same. The DCAA will also designate the areas and heights for drone operations.
All drone-related operations will require a license from the DCAA, and anyone who possesses a drone must register under the DCAA. The following activities will require a DCAA permit, issued in coordination with the Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects and other relevant authorities:
- developing drone-related infrastructure;
- establishing or operating drone airports or making any modification on such facilities; and
- supplying drones with fuel or power.
Prior to operating drones, drone systems and ‘Drone Airports’, operators are required to obtain an operational safety certificate.
The Dubai Air Navigation Services (DANS) has established the airspace within and the air routes through which drones can operate. The DANS will also provide navigation services, air traffic and meteorological information to drone operators to allow safe operation.
Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP) has been tasked with setting specifications, standards, and conditions for Drone Airports to be approved by the DCAA. DAEP will also ensure that the Drone Airports’ design and plans are aligned with Dubai’s urban plans and transportation regulations.
Under this law, Dubai Police will oversee the security aspects of drone activity and along with the DCAA, implementing security measures to prevent the illegal use of drones and criminal activity, loss of control, and flying outside designated areas or violating regulations.
The law specifies mandatory guidelines that drone operators, pilots, supervisors, and crew members should follow, including safety requirements and procedures, manufacturer’s instructions, and security requirements set by the DCAA in coordination with the DANS and other relevant authorities.
Other than authorised personnel, all individuals are prohibited from operating drones in controlled airspaces designated for civilian or military aircraft. The DCAA may allow drone operations in controlled airspaces as per specific regulations, provided they do not affect civil aviation.
With the approval of the DCAA and as per regulations, government authorities may use drones for:
- providing public services
- control and inspection processes
- data collection and statistics
- ambulance services
- traffic monitoring
- conducting monitoring required for environmental
- health, planning and construction compliance
- air surveys
- search and rescue operations
Anyone who uses a drone must take all necessary measures to avoid violating the privacy of individuals, private property, and commercial assets, and maintain the confidentiality of legally protected data. Without authorisation the law prohibits:
- using equipment to violate freedom and privacy of individuals or families (e.g. recording, photography or remote sensing equipment);
- photographing facilities, buildings and restricted or prohibited areas; and
- installing any equipment to collect information and data illegally.
Punishments under the law will include imprisonment and/or fines. A written grievance may be submitted to the Director-General of the DCAA within 30 days of the date of the action against the filing party and will be reviewed within 30 days of its submission.
Authored by Associate, Taronish Mistry