A drone with camera tested by Gulf News. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Pilots said unregulated drones flown near airports can compromise aircraft safety leading to loss of lives, even as Dubai Police said regulations are in the pipeline.

A misused recreational drone, or an unmanned aerial vehicle, forced Dubai airport operations to stop for 55 minutes on Friday afternoon as it flew near the flight path of commercial airlines. No accidents were reported as police had intervened to keep the nuisance drone off the airport.

Maj Gen Ahmad Mohammad Bin Thani, Assistant to Dubai Police Chief for Exits Affairs, said that the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority is working on devising rules and regulations for remote-controlled planes and drones, as flying them has become a popular hobby.

“These drones are available everywhere now and people can easily buy them, but people have no awareness. They need to know that these drones cannot be flown anywhere near airports or flight paths,” he said.

Maj Gen Bin Thani explained that not only drones but even paper kites can cause problems when flown near airports.

According to the precautionary measures prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on air navigation safety, flights have to be stopped if airports find any drones or flying objects in the flight paths.

He said that there are laws in place to punish those who cause damage or interference with public transportation vehicles, but as these drones are not registered and it is not known who they belong to, this does not apply.

In light of Friday’s incident, which is the third time in eight months, Gulf News spoke to Captain Khalid Masud Butt, Head of Training at the Fujairah Aviation Academy, to get a lowdown on the science behind the dangers posed by misused drones.

“If you shake a can of soft drink and try to open it later, it will burst or ‘explode’. The same thing will happen to an aircraft, which is pressurised. When the aircraft is in flight and an object hits it, since it’s flying at high speed, it can cause a leakage and cause it to burst. Everything can fly out,” Captain Butt, who has 50 years of experience in the aviation industry, said.

“Even a sparrow, although it’s not too big, can act like a bullet and pierce an aircraft on impact because its speed multiplies.”

Mohammad Abdullah Al Ahli, Director-General of Dubai Civil Aviation and CEO of Dubai Air Navigation Services, said on Saturday that no drone flights are allowed within an eight nautical mile radius surrounding Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport.

Captain Butt emphasised the importance of keeping this distance.

“When an aircraft is taking off, it creates what we call wake turbulence because of the differences in the air pressure above and below the wings, forming a swirling motion. Anything close to it can just go spinning around [just like when you place something in front of a fan].”

Captain Othman Bin Mat Taib, a former pilot who now works as the head of safety of an aviation company in the UAE, said hobbyists should not underestimate the seriousness of the issue. He said those who want to fly drones should be trained and should be part of a licensed flying club to control its activities.