Drones 101 on The #BusinessBreakfast

New technologies have occupied Business Breakfast minds over the last few months, from driverless cars to flying cars, from Bitcoin to program-driven treasury trading, from the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence to robotics and big data.

A lot of it is confusing, and the Business Breakfast is not ashamed to raise its hand and admit that it’s on the same learning curve as everyone else.

But one new technology we’re right on top of in terms of what it is, what it does and how it works is the world of autonomous flying vehicles…or drones. With one notable exception – regulations.

So we decided to get experts onto the show to give us their varying views of what is permitted, and what is probable, in the world of drones.

We started with logistics and delivery service industries. Mohammed Johmani, CEO of Eniverse Technologies and Founder of Space Autonomous Drones, told us how his company intends to harness drone technology.

So there are tangible business opportunities from the use of drones, but what happens if you want to get into the business but don’t know how to fly a drone and are afraid of writing it off against the nearest wall? Well, our next guest, Mohammed Aziz of Sanad Academy, is qualified and approved to teach dronesmanship, and is approved by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

The academy also has a commercial arm that makes money from aerial filming and broadcasting, including broadcasting the live Burj Khalifa New Year’s Eve fireworks, drone advertising, drone racing and drone shows.

But, what about safe responsible flying of drones? And insurance? And privacy? How do you avoid angering neighbours by hovering a drone over their gardens, or using the camera around crowds? Kennedy Law’s Nick Humphrey joined us to talk drone risk and liability.

And finally we spoke to the arbiter of what goes on over Dubai’s skies, the Dubai Civil Aviation Department, the DCAA. Michael Rudolph, Head of the Airspace Safety Section, gave us the official do’s and don’t’s of drone registration, filming, video work, approvals, laws and regulations on UAS systems and their implementation, RTA Autonomous Taxi Project, UAS delivery, emergency use, traffic surveillance, police monitoring and crowd control.

At the end of the week the BB team felt up to date with the regulations, which are pretty tough and are geared towards regulating commercial drone operation.

So what of the hobbyist? Well, in among the commercial regulations it’s going to be hard for amateurs to operate without achieving a licence, and committing to operate away from crowds and anywhere they could impinge on people’s privacy.

In our own backyard, avid drone hobbyist Catboy of 92FM – one of the first in the region to carry out drone videography years ago – says the new strictures on amateur drone operators has caused him to mothball his drone for the foreseeable future.

Therein lies the challenge for the regulators; to encourage drone-based businesses by making the rules clear, easy and safe to follow, without forcing amateur droners, racers, videographers and photographers out of the skies.

The UAE is a great country to view from the air, and some of the images and movie-captures by hobbyists have been breathtaking. Let’s hope a middle ground is found to accommodate both professionals and amateurs without compromising the UAE’s commercial airspace.

on air