Dubai: Unlicensed drone users will soon be able to use arrive-and-fly rental facilities at the Dubai Cricket Stadium, after a tie-up between Dubai Sports City and drone solutions provider Airscope.
The move, which will be overseen by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), aims to limit the risk of costly airport closures by designating a safe space for the hobby, while providing the stadium with alternative revenue streams.
At present — following several runway closures at Dubai Airport in recent years costing an estimated US$1 million (Dh3.67 million) a minute; the last being on February 15 for just under 30 minutes — the DCAA demands all drone purchasers, no matter what size their drone is, to first obtain a licence.
Once they get this licence they must then fly only in permitted areas, a full list of which is available through a DCAA app. Anyone caught flying in an unauthorised location could face jail time or fines of up to Dh100,000.
Despite these regulations, there hasn’t been a one-stop shop for enthusiasts to gather and learn while being educated on the dos and don’ts, until now.
Mohammad Aziz, CEO of Airscope, said a soft launch would take place next month, possibly at one of Dubai Sports City’s indoor facilities, due to the heat, before full-time operations start in September.
“Eventually the whole idea is to kick-off a drone league and have it as a spectator sport where people can come and watch racing through track loops and airgates,” said Aziz.
“However, we also want to convince people to stop flying in random areas and instead come in for an exciting experience behind closed doors.
“Unfortunately enthusiasts have been flying them everywhere and anywhere and we want to try and limit that and give them a different purpose to get them drone racing instead of flying them all around.
“They can come into a controlled environment in a dedicated drone park and from a safety standpoint that would mitigate a lot of risks from a DCAA perspective, because again it’s in an enclosed space.”
Under the plan, which awaits DCAA guidelines and approval, unlicensed users will be able to arrive, rent, and fly drones within the stadium limits, much like how people turn up to the nearby karting track at Dubai Autodrome.
They will also be able to buy drones and spare parts from retail outlets there, get trained by coaches and leave fully equipped and more knowledgeable of the rules, but also more likely to go back to the stadium, where they know it is safer to fly.
Salman Hanif, Head of Cricket Business at Dubai Sports City, said: “The UAE has had a lack of facilities for this kind of activity. Airscope operate very far out, which is not too convenient, but we are very near to the city and have an excellent well suited arena that remains enclosed from public interference and ticks all the boxes from the DCAA.”
Hanif also said it would help diversify the cricket stadium’s business model to provide alternative revenue streams for when the ground wasn’t in use for matches.
“There are a lot of times, days and hours when cricket is not happening,” said Hanif. “In a month we have about 14 days of cricket, whereas the other 16 are just for pitch maintenance. Those times will be utilised with other activities and one of them will be for drones.”
As for ruining the pitch, he said: “The main concern has not been the outfield but the wicket table, and that will be protected.”
All drone operators in Dubai must undergo training with approved providers in order to register their vehicles and themselves to operate in the emirate, thus ensuring accountability if misused.
Third party insurance is also mandated and there is a re-registration process in place to monitor whether drones are still safe to fly.
This counts for all drones, whereas other countries might only register certain weight categories, Dubai registers all from hobbyists up to commercial operators.
For more information visit dcaa.gov.ae or download the dcaa App to find out where you can and can’t fly once you get your licence.
Source: Dubai Civil Aviation Authority