Recent local media coverage of ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ or ‘drones’ gives the impression that everyone in the UAE either has one or wants one.
While this might not be an entirely accurate impression, the increase in the availability and use of drones in the UAE raises a number of legal issues. In this article, we explore the legal landscape and some of the key issues around the use of drones, whether in a recreational or commercial capacity.
In 2014, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Drones for Good award to encourage the use of drones in the service of people. Subsequently, entities from both the government and the private sector have been working on a variety of projects involving drones.
Drones are increasingly being used for surveillance purposes. Dubai Customs is reported as using drones to track suspicious vessels in Dubai Creek. Separately, there are reports of investment in the use of drones to collect hard-to-reach data, such as environmental data. New York University Abu Dhabi students won the Drones for Good Award for the ‘Wadi Drone’, which collects data in regions where deploying communications infrastructure would damage the natural habitat or present a risk to human safety.
The use of drones is not limited to commercial projects. The recreational use of drones has become widespread in the UAE, which has led to problems. We have seen news reports of air traffic at airports being halted because of recreational drones being flown in the flight paths of planes by members of the public.
Residents have voiced concern over private citizens flying drones equipped with audio/visual recording capabilities over residential areas. Whether or not in response, the sale of recreational drones was banned in Abu Dhabi, pending the introduction of formal rules.
Laws regulating drones in the UAE
There are various laws and regulations that apply to the use of drones in the UAE. We summarize some of the key laws below.
Things to consider
Against this background, it is important to consider the issues below with regard to the use of drones - whether in a commercial or recreational capacity:
The rapid increase in the use of drones within the UAE makes it an area of growing concern and interest. Its development brings new legal challenges making it a “hot topic”. Users of drones should educate themselves in order to ensure that they are in compliance with all the relevant laws and regulations.
Al Tamimi & Company’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications team regularly advises on issues relating to new technologies. For further information on laws relating to drones, or other issues relating to new technologies, please contact Nick O’Connell () or Sana Saleem ( ).