By Rajive Singh
Drones halted air traffic at one of the world’s busiest airports – Dubai – three times last year.
The delays were necessary to protect passengers, officials said, but they hit thousands of travellers and cost airlines millions of dollars, according to Emirates 24|7.
Drones pose a “threat to the flying public” and “to an aircraft in operation,” Ismaeil Al Blooshi, deputy head of the air safety department of the United Arab Emirates’ civil aviation authority, told AFP.
He compared drones to the threat posed by birds, but said they were less predictable and harder to avoid.
“We have means and data to predict when and where is the bird migration… but with drones, you have this object in the air and you don’t know the intentions” of the operator, he said.
The cost of closing airspace for one hour runs into millions and creates a long backlog, but there is no room to compromise on safety, Blooshi said.
“The economic impact is not even on the table” when considering the risks, he said. “The number one priority is avoiding harm to passengers.”
After last year’s incidents, operator Dubai Airports stressed that flying drones within five kilometres (three miles) of airports was illegal.
New regulations introduced last year stipulate up to three years in jail or a fine of 100,000 dirhams ($27,000, 25,000 euros) for flying a drone over a prohibited zone.