Air traffic was brought to a standstill for more than an hour at Dubai International Airport on Saturday, following the presence of an unauthorized drone in the airspace, thus causing 22 flights to be diverted, aviation authorities said.
This is the second time such an incident takes place in Dubai, in less than two years.
According to Michael Rudolph’s calculation, head of aviation regulation and safety at the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), this could cost Dubai around $69 million, $1 million per minute. Noting that the closure lasted between 11:36 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. (0639-0745 GMT), and Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths said thousands of passengers suffered disruption to their journeys.
“This is a very serious incident and we obviously take the safety of our customers and our staff extremely seriously,” Griffiths told Dubaieye 103.8 radio.
“As you can imagine, this is the busiest international airport in the world and there was major inconvenience to thousands of passengers … There are very clear restrictions and no fly zones around all airports in the UAE, saying that this type of activity is actually illegal.”
The flying of drones is prohibited within 5 km (3 miles) of airports, helipads, landing areas or manned aircraft in the UAE.
Aviation concerns focus on smaller drones, operated like model planes and flown for recreation, because their users are often not familiar with the rules of the air.
The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority issued a warning in July 2015 after seven incidents where drones had flown near planes at different British airports in less than a year.
Recognising the threat, the European Commission conceded in 2015 that “drone accidents will happen” and has charged its aviation safety agency arm with developing common rules for operating drones in Europe.