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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Flying drones without official permission is a crime in Qatar


Drone outfitted with GoPro camera for illustrative purposes only.
Drone outfitted with GoPro camera for illustrative purposes only.

Drone owners in Qatar need government permission before operating their unnamed aerial vehicles, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has warned.

The notice comes as drones, which are remote-controlled aircraft, grow in popularity within Qatar and around the world. Many use cameras attached to drones to capture unique and previously unseen aerial angles of local landmarks.

Drone ban announcement
Drone ban announcement

However, in a notice published in newspapers yesterday, the CAA said the use of drones has always been “prohibited” without the agency’s prior authorization:

“The Civil Aviation Authority noted with concern the recent rise in popularity of the unauthorized use of (drones) in violation of the … law,” the notice said.

No one at the CAA would comment on the announcement, which comes more than a year after the aviation authority said it was drafting new rules to regulate the use of drones.

Drones in Qatar

Previously, rules about drone usage in the country were less straightforward.

While some residents reported having unmanned aerial vehicles seized by customs inspectors at Hamad International Airport, others have seen drones being openly sold at retail shops here.

Last year, an official with the Qatar Scientific Club – which operates an airfield in Al Khor where members can fly UAVs as a hobby – said drones specifically fitted with cameras are prohibited due to privacy concerns.

However, yesterday’s CAA notice does not distinguish between drones with or without cameras.

Aerial view of Sidra
Aerial view of Sidra

Despite the apparent rules, some residents have previously posted – and, in some cases, quickly removed – videos of popular local landmarks and little-known sites such as a motor vehicle “graveyard” outside Al Wukair.

In other instances, researchers have used drones with the permission of authorities to conduct archeological surveys of Qatar’s historical sites.


In addition to privacy concerns, regulators around the world are also concerned about the possibility of drones colliding with commercial aircraft.

Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that the European Aviation Safety Agency was establishing a task force to study the risk of crashes between drones and aircraft.

The news came in the aftermath of a collision between a British Airways plane landing at London Heathrow airport and what was initially believed to be a drone.

British Airways A320, for illustrative purposes only.
British Airways A320, for illustrative purposes only.

However, it later turned out to be an unidentified object that a government minister said may have been a plastic bag.

In other cases, drones have crashed into high-rise apartment buildings after losing contact with operators.

Like Qatar, the UAE has also been trying to curb the unchecked use of drones.

Last year, the Emirates passed a new law banning the use of unmanned aerial vehicles with cameras and requiring all drones to be registered, The National reported.

The newspaper said several recreational drones have strayed onto flight paths of commercial aircraft taking off and landing at Dubai airports, causing authorities to temporarily ground planes.


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