Drone, dhow activity to be regulated in Dubai

By Eudore R. Chand

DUBAI 5 July 2020: In his capacity as Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, has issued Law No. 04 of 2020, outlining the regulations governing drone activity in Dubai.

The law aims to reduce risks associated with drone activity and specifies the duties and responsibilities of relevant authorities. It also seeks to help Dubai promote itself as a hub for drone manufacturing, smart transportation and innovation in the sector, and enable public and private entities to use drones and provide drone-related services.

The law applies to the activity of all types of drones across Dubai and its free zones. Drones that are used for military purposes are exempted from this law. However, they should coordinate with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to ensure safety and avoid endangering civil aviation operations, said Wam.

The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the law and managing all related operations and activities in line with federal legislations and international treaties and conventions. This also includes monitoring and controlling drone activity in their designated airspace and outlining the conditions and procedures for issuing permits and conducting trials.

DCAA is also tasked with identifying and approving the designated areas and heights within which the operations and trials of drones can be conducted.

Dubai Air Navigation Services is tasked with streamlining the activity of drones within Dubai’s airspace and demarcating the airspace within which they can operate in order to support DCAA in monitoring drone activity.

Drone Airports

Dubai Air Navigation Services is also tasked with providing air navigation services and air traffic movement and meteorological information to drone operators so that they can operate safely.

Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects is tasked with setting specifications, standards and conditions for ‘Drone Airports’ and presenting them to the DCAA for approval. Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects is also tasked with ensuring the design and plans of ‘Drone Airports’ are aligned with urban plans and transportation regulations in the city.

The law tasks Dubai Police with managing all the security aspects of drone activity and coordinating with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to put in place security measures to prevent the illegal use of drones and crimes committed by using drones, as well as measures to deal with the loss of control of drones, especially when they are flying outside their designated areas and not complying with regulations.

All drone-related operations require a license from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority. The Law outlines the conditions for the use of drones and various permitted drone activities including those that are related to government operations, commercial activity, scientific and research activities, leisure, or activities specified by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority’s Managing Director. The DCAA Managing Director is also in charge of listing the permitted categories for drone operations in Dubai. Anyone who possesses a drone should register it with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

Special radio frequencies

The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, in coordination with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, is tasked with outlining the procedures for the use of radio frequencies for drones and their systems and remote-control stations.

As per the law, a permit from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority is required for developing infrastructure for the operation of drones. The permit will be issued in coordination with the Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects and other relevant authorities, in accordance with relevant regulations and conditions.

The law prohibits any person from establishing or operating airports for drones or making any modification on such facilities before obtaining a permit from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority. This permit will be issued in coordination with the Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects and other concerned authorities. When using airports and airstrips, drone operators must comply with the rules and safety standards set by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

In accordance with the law, a permit from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority is required to supply drones with fuel or power. This permit will be issued in coordination with the Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects and other relevant authorities. Prior to operating drones, its systems and airport strips, operators are required to obtain an operational safety certificate.


The law specifies the guidelines that operators, pilots, supervisors and crew members should comply with including safety requirements and procedures, manufacturer’s instructions, and security requirements set by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority in coordination with the Dubai Air Navigation Services and relevant authorities.

The airspace and areas designated for drones will be determined by the Director General of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority. The Dubai Air Navigation Services is responsible for determining the air routes in which drones may fly according to pre-planned and approved procedure set out by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

In accordance with the law, all individuals, other than authorised personnel, are prohibited from operating drones in controlled airspaces designated for civilian or military aircraft. The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority may allow select drone operations in controlled airspace in accordance with specific regulations, provided they do not affect civil aviation.

Restricted and dangerous areas

All individuals are prohibited from operating drones in restricted and dangerous areas. The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority in coordination with Dubai Police may allow government agencies to use drones for security, rescue, firefighting, surveillance or other purposes that are in the public interest. Subject to the approval of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, government authorities may use drones for providing public services, control and inspection processes, data collection and statistics, ambulance services, firefighting, traffic monitoring, conducting monitoring required for environmental, health, planning and construction compliance, infrastructure, ports, beaches, sea ports, air surveys, and search and rescue operations, in accordance with the regulations adopted by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

According to the law, acts of unlawful interference, which endanger the safety of civil aviation and air transport include illegal seizure of drones, illegal control of their operating systems, any act that is deemed illegal as per regulations, and installation of any weapon, device or dangerous substance or prohibited materials on drones. Any individual who carries out any of these acts is subject to legal action.

Violation of Privacy

According to the law, anyone who uses a drone must take all necessary measures to avoid violating the privacy of individuals, as well as the privacy of private property and commercial assets and maintain the confidentiality of legally protected data.

Using recording, photography or remote sensing equipment to violate the freedom and privacy of individuals or families, as well as photographing facilities, buildings and restricted or prohibited areas without authorisation from concerned entities, and installing any equipment to collect information and data illegally, are strictly prohibited by law.

Without prejudice to any other legislation, tough penalties including imprisonment and/or fines, could be applied to anyone who endangers the safety and security of the airspace, or designs, manufactures, assembles or modifies drones and its systems, and develops simulation and training systems, or imports or sells drones, parts or systems in the Emirate without permission from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, as well as anyone who operates drones in violation of the provisions of the new Law.

Any individual causing damage due to drone operations shall be responsible for damage compensation and removal of the cause of damage during the period determined by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority. In case of delay, the Authority is authorised to remove the cause of damage, in addition to charging the person or party responsible for the damage 20 percent of the cost of removing the damage.

30-day grievance review

Anyone with a grievance may submit a written appeal to the Director General of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, against the decisions, procedures or measures taken against him or her in accordance with this Law, within 30 days of the date of the actions. The grievance will be reviewed within 30 days of its submission by a committee formed by the Director-General of the Authority.

Apart from decisions made by the Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai in accordance with the provisions of this Law, the Director General of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority shall issue the decisions required to implement the provisions of this Law. Any provisions of other legislations that conflict with or contradict the provisions of the new Law shall be considered void. The Law will be published in the Official Gazette and is effective from the date of its publication.

Marine Agency to regulate dhow sector

The Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC), in cooperation with the Dubai Maritime City Authority, (DMCA), has launched a Marine Agency to oversee wooden dhow ships and regulate all their activities while they are in Dubai waters.

The agency is an organisational unit managed by the PCFC and works according to regulations in coordination with the competent government authorities.

Dubai is a key destination for dhows carrying various types of merchandise and goods from several Middle East and North Africa, MENA, region countries. Each year, dhows transport over 720,000 tonnes of goods. The move also aims to consolidate the safety and security of dhows in Dubai waters.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem Chairman of the PCFC, said, “Responsibilities of the Marine Agency will not be limited to following up on transactions and collecting fees. Its main responsibility will be to develop the current dhow trade sector by proposing legislations and regulations to develop their operations to gradually use electronic services and smart trade solutions to expedite the procedures. The agency is also responsible for looking after the interests of the dhow owners and ensuring the safety, security and rights of seafarers while in Dubai.”

One point of contact

“The agency will also be responsible for protecting the rights of local dhow owners and taking care of foreign dhows. They will all have one point of contact to take care of their affairs and respond to their concerns to facilitate their business in Dubai,” he further added.

The Marine Agency will be the only entity responsible for dealing with dhows during their presence in Dubai waters. It will collect fees, wages and expenses due to the concerned government authorities from dhow owners or operators and pay them on their behalf. The agency will also monitor seafarers’ work as dhows are docked at the ports and harbours until they depart. The agency will coordinate with the relevant government authorities on marine safety of dhows, and coordinate with the competent authorities in case of any marine accidents or emergencies.

The agency will also collaborate with relevant government entities to facilitate its tasks and operations in Dubai waters, including the Dubai Police, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Dubai Customs, Dubai Municipality, the Roads and Transport Authority, the General Authority of Ports, Borders and Free Zones Security, Coast Guard and the Dubai Civil Defence. The agency is also responsible for forming joint task forces to deal with accidents, crises or disasters to ensure maritime safety of dhows in Dubai waters and improve the services offered to them.

Help dhow owners develop business

The Marine Agency will help dhow owners develop their business by saving their time and reducing the number of transactions to clear their goods. It will also provide them with one point of contact, offering them multiple trade options such as long-term contract opportunities for their services. All local and foreign dhow owners will have to register their ships with the agency and follow its rules for sailing and carrying out shipping and loading operations in Dubai ports.

The agency will also implement transparency of service fee applicable to local traders and will be responsible for several services including cargo handling, ensuring goods safety and damage control during discharge/loading, berth booking, etc.