Can I Fly a Drone in Dubai?
Want to fly a drone in Dubai but unsure of the rules & regulations?
Here’s everything you need to know.
On paper, there are strict guidelines for flying a drone in Dubai
Drone flying is strictly regulated in the UAE, with anyone who wants to fly their own drone needing to apply for a permit & to register their drone. Don’t worry, its quick & simple (and relatively cheap) to do.
The Dubai authorities have laid out a clear set of regulations, including a regularly updated map displaying where you can & cannot fly, as well as limits on how high you can fly your drone, etc. These rules have been implemented to ensure the safety & privacy of individuals, as well as making sure that air traffic is not interrupted or put at risk.
If you are interested in buying a drone or already have one and want to get out there and fly, read on to find out everything you need to know.
How can I get a permit/license to fly my drone in Dubai?
There are two different types of permits for drone flying in Dubai, a hobbyist license and a commercial license. If you are simply a photography enthusiast looking to fly your drone every now & then you can simply apply for a hobbyist license from Sanad Academy (link this). The hobbyist drone license lasts a year and costs 368 AED.
Note: You can only apply for a hobbyist permit if your drone is under 4kg.
Upon arrival to the Sanad Academy, you will be asked to give your drone to the administrator who will record the serial number of the drone & remote control (RC). You will then be asked to take a short multiple choice test on the computer consisting of 30 questions. The assessment includes basic questions focused around drone knowledge, aircraft regulations, safety procedures and civil aviation. After a quick read of the theory handbook you should find it relatively straight forward to score the mandatory 75% pass mark. If you need to take a look at the handbook then click here and you will find out everything you need to know to pass the test.
Tip: Read the theory handbook before taking the test!
Once you have passed the theory test a drone instructor will then take you outside and ask you to place your drone down on the ground in a clear area. They will ask you to perform some very simple flight manoeuvres such as moving the drone up & down, left and right, and then performing these same manoeuvres in reverse (with the drone facing you). You are not allowed to use the monitor during this physical test, so I would advise flying the drone and practising these manoeuvres before heading to Sanad Academy. It is an easy test, and they are very unlikely to fail you, but it is always best to come practiced and prepared. Click here to check out the criteria for passing the practical exam.
Once you have passed the test you will be sent an email with a certificate to display that you have passed both the theory and practical exam, with your new Sanad ID. They used to give you a physical copy of this certificate but I believe now they simply send you a virtual copy.
In the same email you will also receive clear instructions as to how to apply for your hobbyist license. You will have to go to the DCAA website and click on RPAS Registration. Simply follow the instructions laid out in the email (as seen below) from Sanad Academy and you will find the process quite simple. After you have filled out all the appropriate forms, including providing a passport photo and a copy of your Emirates ID, etc, your permit request will be approved. This process can take 7-10 days.
After applying and paying a small administration fee (I think its approx 100 AED) to the DCAA you will receive a virtual copy of your hobbyist drone license which you just need to print off and your done! These are the simple steps you need to follow to become a licensed drone pilot in Dubai! The virtual copy will look just like the one below. Make sure to keep it handy whenever you are flying your drone and particularly if you are flying in and out of Dubai, so that your drone does not get confiscated at customs.
The Sanad Academy is located off E66 (the road to Al Ain) in the Al Lisali area. Just type in Sanad Academy on google maps or click here.
Commercial drone license
If you are flying a drone for commercial purposes, however, you will need to take a far more stringent exam & apply for the (more expensive) commercial license. The commercial license costs 4,700 AED and is really only for people flying larger drones & quadcopters for commercial filming purposes.
TIP: If you are bringing your own drone into Dubai without any kind of permit you may encounter problems at the airport. I have a friend who bought a 2nd hand DJI Mavic drone recently and took it out of Dubai on a vacation, only for the drone to be confiscated from him at customs when he came back through and re-entered Dubai. He was a resident and did not have either the drone registered or a hobbyist license for himself. I am unsure of the case for tourists, but I would suggest that if you are bringing a drone into Dubai then you simply keep it packed in your carry-on luggage and hope they don’t take it off you at customs. Either that or you can apply for a hobbyist license in advance by following the same process on the DCAA website.
Where can I fly my drone in Dubai?
This is a question I get asked all the time and I have answered it more fully in another blog article. Click here to read my post on the best (& safest) places to fly your drone in Dubai.
However, be aware of a few things before you head out to fly your drone. There is a map that is given out by both Sanad Academy & the DCAA highlighting the (green) areas in which you are allowed to fly your drone, and the (red) areas in which you are absolutely not permitted to operate a drone with only a hobbyist license.
The map is shown below and clearly shows that, unfortunately, a lot of places which would be fantastic to fly a drone, are in fact, off limits (unless you have a commercial license and a permit from the DCAA).
The main point to understand here is that Dubai is an international hub for travel and it is of course only logical that the government doesn’t want anyone and everyone flying their drones where there are a lot of helicopters flying in low airspace, and also anywhere near the airport or flight paths.
That being said, there are plenty of places you can still fly your drone without breaking any of the regulations. The desert is a fantastic spot, up at the Al Qudra cycle track for example, as is the beach (down at sunset mall for example). Just be careful, considerate, and don’t put yourself or anyone else in danger when flying your drone.
If you want any up to date information on the no fly zone areas then simply download the My Drone Hub app from the App Store. On the app you can register your drone and log in to your own personal account, also handy if you ever get stopped by the police when flying your drone.
What are the penalties for violating the regulations?
I myself have flown the drones for over 300 hours in Dubai over the last 3 years and have never been encountered any problems at all.
Again, its always best to keep your license on you at all times whilst you are flying the drone and to keep up to date with the map, particularly so during the Dubai Air show, for example, as using this time the authorities often ban drone flying altogether for a certain period of time.
I have heard that fines can range from 2,000 – 20,000 AED, depending on the nature of the violation. You can also even be prosecuted for disregarding the regulations and, as such, it’s always better to just stay safe and follow the rules.
TO SUM UP!
Dubai is an amazing location to fly your drone and to get some breathtaking shots of the desert, natural oasis’s and the futuristic cityscape. With that being said, be creative, stay inspired and just be safe when it comes to flying your drone.
Ask yourself, is it really worth getting in trouble or landing yourself with a huge fine just for getting this shot? The rules are in place simply to keep people safe & to be honest, it is super easy & cheap to get yourself a hobbyist drone license. so do yourself a favour and get the appropriate permit you need to be able to fly safe & legally.
Stay tuned for our next article!