Dubai International Airport was among the first in the world to encounter the drone problem in 2015, when it was shut for 55 minutes. Three more incidents occurred in 2016. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: The Dubai International airport was briefly closed due to suspected drone activity on Friday morning.

A statement from a Dubai Airports spokesperson read: “Dubai Airports confirms that flight departures from Dubai International were suspended between 1013 hours and 1045 hours UAE local time due to suspected drone activity.

“Dubai Airports has worked closely with the appropriate authorities to ensure that the safety of airport operations is maintained at all times and to minimise any inconvenience to our customers.”

Dubai Media Office tweeted: “Dubai Airports confirms that operations at Dubai International are back to normal after less than 30 minutes of delay due to unauthorised drone activity.

“Authorities warned that flying drones without obtaining permission is subject to legal liability as per UAE laws.”

This is not the first time the Dubai airport has been closed due to drone activity. The airport was among the first in the world to encounter the problem in 2015, when it was shut for 55 minutes.

Three more incidents occurred in 2016, two lasting 30 minutes and a third spanning 115 minutes.

Eisa Al Hashmi, Director of the Conformity Department at the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Meteorology (ESMA), has previously estimated the cost of closing an airport at Dh350,000 per minute. However Michael Rudolph, Head of Airspace Safety at Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, has put this loss much higher at $1 million (Dh3.6 million) per minute.

Following Dubai’s previous incidents strict implementation of drone licensing, registration, training and stiff penalties of jail and up to Dh100,000 fines for operating in unauthorised locations were introduced, making the emirate a world leader in drone regulation.

Gulf News reported just last month that Dubai Civil Aviation Authority had even been approached by airport authorities in the UK from Gatwick and Heathrow for advice on how to deal with drone incursions following their own incidents in London in December and January.


maximum fine for operating a drone in an unauthorised area

Gatwick’s closure from December 19-21 lasted 33 hours, while Heathrow’s incident on January 8 was just an hour.

Factoring in losses, it’s not only planes grounded at the airport which is closed that account for the cost, but also those grounded at other airports waiting to depart for the location of the closure.

Gulf News first learnt of Friday’s Dubai closure via twitter where passengers were quick to complain about delays.

“Dubai airport going nowhere due to drone flying around,” tweeted Andrew Todd. “So thousands of people sitting in planes going nowhere. What is wrong with people flying drones near airports!”

Anush Wijesinha also tweeted: “Stuck for ages at Dubai airport runway unable to taxi as unauthorised drones have entered the airspace here and all take-offs have been grounded! This seems to be happening often in airports everywhere. Recently in Gatwick also.”