Beginning 4 September 2017, drone manufacturers, importers, vendors and operators based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (the Providers) will be required to comply with new regulations concerning the commercial and recreational use of unmanned aerial vehicles and systems. Providers will have three months to comply with the new regulations, which have been developed in response to several drone-related disruptions on public, private and institutional property, including the Dubai International Airport.

The Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) issued Board Chairman's Resolution No. 43 of 2017 (the New Drone Regulations), which sets new requirements for Drone Products (as defined below), including: (i) government approval; (ii) a classification system; (iii) labels, serial numbers, and guidebooks; and (iv) product registration. The New Drone Regulations will apply broadly to ready-to-use drones as well as any related machines, systems and components (the Drone Products) in on-shore and free zone areas.

Government approval

Under the New Drone Regulations, any offering of Drone Products in the UAE will have to be approved by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (the GCAA). Providers engaging in the manufacturing, assembly, sale or rental of Drone Products will require prior approval for these activities.

Classification system

All Drone Products traded in the UAE market will be classified into one of four "use" categories (the Classification): (i) entertainment; (ii) professionalism, including commercial and industrial purposes, and providing drone services; (iii) research and development; and (iv) military and security purposes.

Drone Products classified under "research and development" and "military and security purposes" will not be regulated by the New Drone Regulations. Furthermore, the New Drone Regulations reaffirm the previous regime and will continue to prohibit the use of Drone Products with any sound or video recording devices.

Product specifications

Going forward, all Drone Products will require a detailed product label. The product label must include: (i) the Letter of Conformity number (described further below); (ii) the product serial number; (iii) the brand, model and name of the Drone Product; (iv) the country of origin or manufacturer name; and (vi) the serial number issued by ESMA.

In addition to the product label, Providers will need to include an illustrative and warning sign guidebook published in English and Arabic with all Drone Products. The guidebook must comply with the safe use handbook requirements of the GCAA and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

Lastly, all Drone Products will require a Declaration of Specifications (DOS). If the Drone Product is manufactured in the UAE, the DOS will be issued by the manufacturer. If the Drone Product is imported, then the DOS will be issued by the importer or vendor in the UAE that showcases the product on the market. The DOS must contain the following details: (i) the name and address of the manufacturer; (ii) the brand, model and name of the Drone Product; (iii) the country of origin; (iv) the Classification; and (v) the Drone Product's technical specifications as prescribed under Article 7 of the New Drone Regulations.

Product registration

Finally, ESMA is responsible for certifying that the requirements listed above have been met and documented for all Drone Products. Providers will be able to submit applications to ESMA online and, once they have been reviewed and approved, ESMA will issue a Letter of Conformity. The Letter of Conformity will have a unique identifying number, which will be required to finalise the product label described above.

Penalties

The New Drone Regulations do not provide penalties or fines for non-compliance. However, under the current regime, penalties for non-compliance can be imprisonment of up to three years and a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dirhams.