By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates will finalize laws to more heavily regulate the sale of drones and their operations soon, aiming to minimize risks posed by unmanned aerial vehicles, an official at the aviation regulator said on Monday.
Dubai International Airport was closed for more than an hour on June 12 due to unauthorized drone activity in the surrounding airspace that resulted in millions of dollars of losses for the economy.
"Several incidents have happened and to integrate them (drones) safely into the commercial airspace is a challenge," Mohammed Faisal al-Dossari, director, air navigation & aerodromes department, UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), said.
Current regulations on drones in the UAE, introduced in April 2015, relate mainly to commercial licensing and approving how companies use drones and are under constant development, al Dossari told reporters at a regional conference on drones in the UAE capital.
"The Emirates Authority for Standardization & Metrology (Esma) is working on laws that will have a framework for the UAE for imports, sales and performance of drones," he said.
Abu Dhabi has banned the sale of recreational drones since March last year until new laws are issued, saying they posed a risk to aviation.
The new laws will also address air-worthiness for heavier drones, standards for pilotless aircraft and pilot training among other issues, al Dossari said.
At least 400 drones, mostly commercial, are registered with the GCAA. Drones are used for commercial operations such as mapping, security surveillance, wildlife surveys as well as for environment, transport, agricultural and maritime purposes, among others in the UAE.
As a regional aviation hub with two of the busiest airports in the world, the UAE's airspace is congested. And with drones becoming increasingly relevant, there are safety and security risks, Gulf area manager at IATA, the global body of airlines, Michael Herrero, said.
"The big question is how to integrate drones into commercial airspace in future, governments need to put it high on the agenda with enforceable legislation," he said.
(Reporting By Stanley Carvalho, editing by Sami Aboudi and Susan Fenton)