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UAE aviation authority says drone disruption minimised in recent incident

UAE aviation authority says drone disruption minimised in recent incident

A GCAA official said the regulator is exploring a number of means to limit the impact of drone activity within its airspace

The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has upped its measures to decrease drone disruption with a recent incident at the weekend dealt with swiftly, according to an official.

Operations at Dubai International Airport have been impacted by drone activity a number of times this year with one incident in October prompting local carrier Emirates to call for action from authorities to discourage future occurrences.

Read: Emirates calls for action after “millions of dirhams” lost due to Dubai drone disruption

Speaking onstage at a conference in Dubai, Sultan Al Zara, director of Licensing at the GCAA, said the authority is exploring a number of means to mitigate the impact of drone use near airports and other restricted areas.

“The last incident which you probably did not hear about was only just last weekend where a drone has caused disruption to the airspace,” he said.

“However, GCAA has brought all the mitigation to ensure there will be minimum disruption to operations and that’s why it was dealt with straight away.”

Among the technologies being tested by the authority are geo-fencing, which tracks a drone’s location via GPS and stops it from operating if it enters no fly zones near airports or other restricted areas.

The GCAA has also viewed a demonstration from an unnamed company preventing drone use up to 2,000 feet above and within five miles of an airport and will trial a solution with Dubai Police in the coming weeks designed to take control of drones within restricted areas, Al Zara said.

But the official stressed that no one drone prevention technology was full proof given with each having its own limitations.

“As the regulator I cannot assure 100 per cent that there will be no malicious intent in drone [use] in the UAE and there will be no one that can ensure you our airspace will always be safe,” he said.

Read: Dubai testing drone detectors after several airport incursions

More broadly he said the regulator was focussing on the sale of drones and the education of owners as a means of limiting incidents.

The GCAA is aiming to ensure that all manuals sold with devices are printed in Hindi, Arabic and English and leaflets are included with each drone to warn of usage restrictions.

It also plans to work with other government authorities to restrict the sale of certain types of drones to approved retailers that will ensure buyers are registered and have appropriate training in their use.

“We are ensuring that Spinneys will not be able to sell these drones, because Spinneys is not the right platform to determine if you require training,” Al Zara said in response to a question asking what is stopping shoppers from picking up a drone at their local supermarket.

“Certain types of drones which may cause threat will be only sold through recognised distribution points acceptable to us and they will ensure if you need training you will get training before you get the drone and the leaflet will be passed on.”

He indicated an approved device list, similarly to one used by the country’s telecoms authority for mobile phones, would also be adopted meaning only manufacturers that meet certain specifications will be able to sell their devices in the country.

This would prevent the sale of devices that allow the user to manipulate their GPS location to prevent restrictions like geo-fencing, Al Zara suggested.

The GCAA is working with government body ESMA to come up with these drone standards with the aim of controlling distribution at the border as early as Q1 of 2017, he said.

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