x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 October 2017

Drones are taking off

Unmanned craft are increasingly in the skies above us – and the rules are up in the air too

A drone aircraft. US Secret Service / AP
A drone aircraft. US Secret Service / AP

There are drones and drones. There are those sophisticated unmanned aerial systems that will boldly go where soldiers are not sent – air strikes against ISIL, the badlands along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Then there are those “drones for good”, as the eponymous UAE competition describes aerial vehicles that are used to detect landmines, map slums and find missing children. Finally, there are the dinky quadcopters and model planes operated by remote control and flown for fun. It was one such recreational drone that forced Dubai airport to stop work for 55 minutes last week, for the third time in eight months.

It’s getting so much easier for people to own a drone and “dronies” – selfies with your drone – are becoming hip, so it’s time that we, and the wider world, regulate their use. For reasons of privacy, safety and commercial aviation. As in the US, which first ruled on them, drones are not allowed near airports here and Dubai has a Dh3,100 registration fee. But more is needed now that drones are literally taking off.