You don’t have to follow tech news that closely to realise that the era of drone-enabled business is upon us, or nearly. In 2013 Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously announced his ambition to shift to a drone-based delivery by unmanned aircraft. But what are the opportunities in the UAE, given the country’s specific legal and business challenges? 

Get authorised

To operate drones commercially in Dubai, aspirants must obtain a no-objection certificate from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA).

Lights, camera, action

The UAE permits the use of drones for theatrical film-making under certain guidelines. The emirate of Dubai recommends hiring an authorised operator who can navigate the various restrictions and permit requirements for filming.

No fly zone

The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and DCAA have passed regulations that forbid the flying of drones near, around or over airports. And for good reason. Last year recreational drones wandered into the flight path, delaying several flights. This could be a major concern if your drone outfit is by any chance based near Dubai International Airport.

Door to don’t

Privacy is of central concern in the UAE — many residents are sensitive to being photographed without permission, and understandably so. Flying of drones over residential areas is disallowed by federal and municipal authorities, to ensure that residents are free from prying eyes.

Surveying the land

The UAE allows drones to be used in the practice of architectural survey, but limits this activity to authorised vendors.

Sensitive spots

Right, so apart from airports and neighbourhoods we’re good to go, right? Wrong. Many areas in the UAE are considered off limits due to concerns regarding national security and safety. So when in doubt it’s best to get up-to-date on the federal and local regulations.

Fly for good

Despite practical concerns, the UAE does want to encourage drone technology in the commercial sector. In February, Loon Copter’s multi-rotor drone from the US won the $1 million (Dh3.67 million) prize in the first annual UAE Drones for Good competition.

Emirate differences

Make sure to check for regulations or limitations on drone use which are specific to the emirate you’re working in, as local laws vary on many points.

When in doubt, ask

In Dubai, the DCAA and GCAA are the best resources to consult to make sure you’re drones don’t wind up on the wrong side of the law.