Harsh prosecution awaits those behind unauthorised drone activity violating the UAE’s airspace a spokesperson for the General Civil Aviation Authority has said.
“Like terrorist actions, any activity which endangers aircraft is punishable by very harsh imprisonment, including life imprisonment,” Ismail Balooshi, assistant director general, aviation safety, GCAA, told Aviation Business. “No one should be waking up in the morning to endanger lives just to film and enjoy a video.”
Airspace over airports is a restricted primarily because aircraft can carry up to 400 people at a time and drones in such a critical facility can expose them to danger, he says. “There are strict regulations relating to the unauthorised use of drones in the UAE. But if someone insists on breaking the law, then the UAE law is very strict and they will be prosecuted.”
Four incidents in the last five months, including three at Dubai International airport, due to unauthorised drone activity has led to airspace over airports having to be closed. The closures have resulted in “millions of dirhams in losses” according to Emirates Airline.
Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths has called for drones to be geo-fenced, a practice where drones entering restricted airspace are automatically shut off. However, while the authority is working towards achieving such a mechanism, it will take time before it comes online, says Balooshi.
“Many people are saying many things and offering recommendations. but an effective solution to eliminate all such activity is not readily available at the moment,” he says.
“However, things are moving very fast,” says Balooshi, pointing towards efforts to jam drones as soon as they enter restricted airspace that the authority is working on. “We are in conversations with stakeholders including Dubai Police, the airports and the airlines to come up with a rapid response mechanism which will alert the police and assess risks as quickly as possible restrict any drones entering the country that do not carry geo-fencing capabilities. And we are also working with Dubai Customs and the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology to restrict any drones entering the country that do not carry geo-fencing capabilities.”