Drone intrusion shuts down Dubai, Sharjah airports

Unauthorised drone activity shuts down both the Dubai and Sharjah airports

Dubai/Sharjah: For the third time this year, a drone intrusion into high-security airspace has briefly suspended operations at Dubai International Airport suspended operations while nearby Sharjah International Airport also shuttered its airspace.

Federal aviation officials said both airports closed air operations for nearly 90 minutes on Saturday evening to ensure the airspace was clear of drone interference.

Saif Al Suwaidi , Director General of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), confirmed the temporary closures of the airports in a statement after normal flight operations resumed.

“Airspace around Sharjah and Dubai International was closed from 7:25pm to 9:10pm this evening  due to unauthorised drone activity resulting in a number of delays at the airport," Al Suwaidi said.

An unauthorised drone was said to have been spotted in Al Warqa area of Dubai as investigators carried out a sweeping search for the unidentified flying machine.

The delay caused flight delays confirmed a Dubai Airport spokesperson in a statement sent to Gulf News.

“Airspace around Dubai International was closed from 1925 hrs to 2045 hrs on Saturday due to unauthorised drone activity resulting in the diversion of 22 inbound flights. Dubai Airports is working closely with its stakeholders to return operations to normal to minimise customer inconvenience,” the spokesperson said. 

“Safety is our top priority and Dubai Airports reminds all UAV operators that any and all activities are not permitted unless authorised by regulatory authorities and are strictly prohibited in restricted areas including within 5 kilometres of any airport or landing area." 

The drone intrusion comes not long after a similar interruption closed Dubai International Airport on September 28 when another drone wandered into the secure area over the facility.

That intrusion prompted airport managers to shutter the facility for 30 minutes before air services were fully restored roughly two hours later.

The lockdown of air services at the time was critical to ensure passenger safety and caused minor delays for a total of 90 flights across Dubai.

Last month's brief closure followed a disruption on June 11 leading to the closure of Dubai airport for 69 minutes and the diversion of 22 flights to neighbouring airports like Al Maktoum International, Sharjah airport and Fujairah airport.

In late September, a senior staff member of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said that a new UAE law to restrict import and sale of drones will soon be implemented in the UAE due to the growing use of drones in the country.

Mohammad Al Dossary, director of air navigation and aerodromes department, said the authority is working with the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology on the new law.

“We are working with the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology on a law that will have a framework for the UAE on the sale and import of drones. Once the law is implemented, you will have restrictions on the sale and import of drones and only certain sizes of drones will be there in the market,” Al Dossary told reporters at the Drones Middle East conference in Abu Dhabi.

Currently drones can be purchased from retailers in Dubai and some other parts of the UAE. However, Abu Dhabi banned the sale of drones last year due to risks posed to the aviation sector.

“The challenge that we are facing is people are not aware of the requirements. Several incidents have happened in the UAE caused by individuals who are not familiar with our requirements and they fly the drones,” Al Dossary said.

More than 400 drones have been registered with the GCAA, mostly for commercial purposes for use in real estate, agriculture and the oil and gas industry.

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