Over the past few years drones have become an essential and affordable tool of videography. Just a decade ago an aerial shot was a privilege exclusive to large production companies. Nowadays even a thousand dollar drone can produce breathtaking footage. However, such rapid innovation and easy access to these gadgets have raised a number of challenges for regulators around the world- how must one find the balance between a harmless hobby or professional use while preserving airspace safety and ensuring individual privacy.
There is some good news for UAE residents as it has one of the most transparent and easy to follow drone regulations in the world. Flying drones in the UAE is allowed but surely you need to follow some rules. First, your drone needs to be registered with UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (here). This is a rather quick process and involves no paperwork or frustrating approval process. All you need to do is go to the registration website, fill out a form which provides technical information about your device. After submitting these documents you will receive your permit - print this out and keep it with you while flying your drone. It is also important to note that this permit is linked to the device, so if you buy a new device you will need to register that as well.
The Airspace Radius
You are almost ready to fly. The most essential thing to remember is that there are restricted zones in the UAE, most of these are the 5km radius of airports, airfields. Yes, Burj Al Arab has a helipad and it counts as an airfield. Checking it couldn't be easier, just download the UAE Drone Fly Zone Map app which uses your GPS location to tell you if it's a "green" or "red' zone to fly. Beyond the flying zones there are some rules which are easy to keep in mind: such as avoid flying over private property. These rules are listed on the UAE General Civil Authority page, make sure to read through them.
Hobbyists vs Professionals
So what's the bad news? The use of an image or video capturing device is not allowed on the drone when flying as an individual. Such is permitted only when holding a professional license that can be acquired after passing the UAS GCAA exam. The requirements and the related form can be found on the Authority website. When meeting all the requirements you need to obtain a permit for each flight. Unfortunately, this process is more complex and only a few creators will be able to comply with the requirements.
If you are into commercial video production it is definitely worth obtaining the professional license and get a legal permit to capture those stunning shots. As an individual videographer or hobby film-maker you can still benefit from local regulations: flying a drone requires a lot of practice. Especially when you're in a once in a lifetime situation where you have no room for errors to shoot what you want and exactly how you want.
So register, grab your drone, find a green zone and practice till you capture that perfect footage!
About the Writer
Archie Jurdi is a Hungarian FinTech professional based in Dubai. His passion for expressing creativity through the audiovisual form lead him through his formative years of spinning records as a DJ, these days however he is a dedicated follower of filmmaking, determined to capture the memorable moments of life through motion picture. Instagram:@archie.jurdi