ABU DHABI // Recreational drones have been banned from sale in Abu Dhabi because they pose a risk to aviation.
The ban was announced on Wednesday by the Abu Dhabi Business Centre, an affiliate of the Department of Economic Development, to reduce the number of drones in the air and ensure they were not being misused.
It will be enforced until new laws on drone use are issued.
“Stopping the sale of drones comes within the mandate of the centre to regulate and control commercial activities that may negatively affect community security,” said Mohammed Al Rumaithi, acting executive director of the centre.
But despite being officially warned, some shops in Abu Dhabi were selling drones yesterday.
Mohammed Mujahid, a team leader at one shop, said he had a model on offer for Dh4,900 – the Phantom – with a built-in camera for stills and videos.
Mr Mujahid said he had read about the ban online and was warned by the centre on Wednesday.
“Yesterday I had a guy from the municipality who warned us not to sell this any more,” he said.
“Its sale now in the market is prohibited. But we need to finish the stock because they’re very expensive and I am going to lose too much money.
“I still have five pieces to sell. I’ll keep them until I finish them. I won’t get a new lot.”
He said the ban must have been introduced for security reasons.
“These drones come with built-in cameras,” Mr Mujahid said. “I think the Government wanted to stop sales because people might use them for illegal activities.”
In January, air traffic was suspended at Dubai International Airport after reports that drones were being flown dangerously close to planes.
Mr Al Rumaithi said the ban was to protect “aviation security and safety”.
A committee was formed in 2013 to study the use of drones and draft laws that added to “regulations in force to prevent the use of airspace without prior permission from the competent authority”.
Ahmed Al Qubaisi, acting director of the centre’s commercial protection department, said: “The centre has begun to address all sales outlets and shops in Abu Dhabi to request them to stop selling drones to the public.”
He said his department would increase inspections of shops to ensure the ban was being followed.
Laws to regulate the weight and use of drones are to be announced soon, the state news agency Wam reported. People may still be allowed to use drones if they have obtained government approval.
The laws will also set controls for drone use by government agencies and private companies, which will need an official permit before flying them in UAE airspace.
Some stores had adhered to the ban.
“We were dealing with drones before but now we have stopped selling,” said a staff member at the Virgin Megastore in Al Wahda Mall.
He said the store used to sell different kinds of drones, which cost between Dh1,000 and Dh4,000.
The business centre called for the ban to be enforced and for the public to stop buying drones until the laws were issued.
The General Civil Aviation Authority on Wednesday said: “The GCAA is in the final stage of finalising a regulation concerning drones and other aviation sports activities.
“For safety, we need to ensure all safety measures such as technical and aviation knowledge of the user, age of the user, drones type, drones technology, airspace availability and awareness are in place before drones can be allowed to fly over public or in the city.”
Last month, the US Federal Aviation Administration introduced legislation stating that drone users needed pilot certificates and banning their use at night.
The laws also set a maximum flying speed of 160 kph and an altitude ceiling of about 150 metres.