Saudi civil aviation authority to begin issuing drone permits

A drone is used to record a military parade by Saudi security forces. (AP Photo)
Updated 12 January 2019

Saudi civil aviation authority to begin issuing drone permits

  • Caters for hobbyists, enthusiasts and commercial ‘Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ (UAS) operators
  • Permit allows for recreational and commercial drone use

RIYADH: The General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) began receiving Unmanned Aircarft Systems (UAS) drone permit applications via its website on Thursday. Those who own a drone or wish to purchase one and fly it in Saudi Arabia can register and receive the relevant permits through https://eaviation.gaca.gov.sa/uas/.

On its website on Thursday, GACA announced the launching of this electronic service.

“The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Kingdom’s regulator of all aspects of civil aviation has announced launching its electronic service to obtain permits required for operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones in the Saudi Arabia, as part of its comprehensive digital transformation project for all of the services provided by the authority.

“Launching this e-service falls within the context of the relentless efforts exerted by GACA for a safe airspace achieving a secure environment in accordance with the strictest international safety standards, in addition to improve and regulate the navigation of drones, in line with the Kingdom’s vision 2030.”

This comes as much of a delight for hobbyists, enthusiasts and commercial ‘Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ (UAS) operators, who for years have operated under the radar, facing investigation and detention, if caught flying a drone.

“The idea was to fly the drone away from the take-off point, as quickly as possible, so as not to be seen”, said one drone pilot, who asked to only be identified as Majid. “Then when you come in to land you land as quickly as possible, then get in your car and go. That’s how I have been getting away with it.”

With the new GACA permits, drone operators will be able to relax.

This journalist applied for a drone permit online and found the application process to be a simple one and allows for recreational and commercial drone use. Applicants are required to submit a copy of the national identity card or iqama and the make, model and serial number of the drone they are registering. There is also the option to obtain a Saudi Customs clearance certificate through GACA to import a drone into the country.

Information required by GACA includes a copy of the applicant’s national identity card or iqama, as well as the make and serial number of the drone. If one has received formal training in operating a drone, consideration is given for that.

Within the first 24 hours of opening online registration, GACA received 241 applications.

From the GACA website, it appears that registration for each drone is required, and permission for each flight is also required. How quickly GACA can approve those requests will be seen in the coming days and weeks.

Bringing a drone into Saudi Arabia has always been a smuggler’s task with several confiscated by Saudi Customs over the years at various points of entry. Foreign journalists and film-makers were also banned from bringing them into the country unless prior arrangements and permission was granted by the Ministry of Media’s Foreign Media Department.

“There was always much confusion regarding drone permits and those wishing to apply for one were being referred to either the Ministry of Media, GACA, the Ministry of the Interior, local Governorate, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media, the local Municipality or the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones,” said Seif, a Saudi film-maker and drone enthusiast.

“Where you were referred, depended on who you asked, and you ended up not flying, or flying illegally,” Seif added.

Drone pilots that Arab News spoke to had a concern, and that is whether a GACA permit is all that is needed to fly, or will one need other permits on top of the GACA one.

Arab News will be approaching GACA on Sunday for more information about regulations including whether training courses are required, and about how quickly day-flying permits take to process.

On Friday, online black-market advertisements for drones for sale in the Kingdom began including the link to the GACA drone registration website, arguably marking the end of black-market drone sales in the Kingdom.

Black-market prices online have always been elevated and remained so over the weekend in the case of drones for sale.

One man named Abdulaziz who had two of the latest DJI Mavic drones available for sale in Jeddah, was selling them for SR2,000 more than they are sold for in shops in Dubai.

When asked why, he said: “I had to bring them it into the country.”

With this new regulation it is expected that drones will soon be appearing in stores all around Saudi Arabia.


New projects aim to share Saudi human-rights successes with the world

Updated 16 July 2020

New projects aim to share Saudi human-rights successes with the world

  • Initiatives aim to highlight historic reforms and promote more accurate international view of Kingdom’s efforts to improve human rights
  • Human Rights Commission also aims to enhance cooperation with organizations working in the field in other countries

RIYADH: The Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC) has launched three international initiatives to highlight the success of recent reforms implemented by the Kingdom, and enhance its cooperation with other organizations working in the field.

“(Saudi Arabia) has witnessed historic transformations and qualitative moves in human rights, as more than 70 reform decisions in the field were issued under the directives of King Salman and under the direct leadership and tireless follow-up of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Awwad Al-Awwad, the president of the HRC.

He described the reforms as a success story, and said the commission will work to highlight the achievements around the world.

At the forefront of this effort is the launch of the HRC’s International Communication Program, as part of which representatives of civil-society institutions will be invited to participate in commission meetings and international human-rights events. In addition, young national leaders will be trained to enhance the representation of the Kingdom in human-rights organizations worldwide.

The HRC considers that the program presents an important opportunity to educate and inform international partners and the public about the unprecedented steps Saudi Arabia is taking to meet international standards of human rights and its achievements to that end. It also provides a mechanism that will enable the country to develop its relationship with the international community and highlight developments and reforms.

Al-Awwad also announced the launch of the HRC International Platform, which will focus on sharing English-language information and data reflecting the progress made in safeguarding human rights in the Kingdom. This will include direct interaction with the public on social media.

The third new initiative is a monthly, English-language newsletter featuring information about the latest human-rights reforms and developments in Saudi Arabia, including efforts being made to promote and protect them. A mailing list has also been created that includes more than 500 prominent human-rights campaigners around the world. The newsletter and other HRC publications will be sent to them to enhance communication and interaction, and keep them informed of human-rights initiatives in the Kingdom.

Al-Awwad said that the new initiatives are designed to reveal the true state of human rights in the Kingdom, which has undergone unprecedented development at all levels in the past few years. They will also improve communication and encourage positive relationships with human-rights campaigners and organizations in other countries, he added, in an effort to correct misconceptions that have formed for many reasons, not least the absence until now of accurate information.

The HRC has already produced the first issue of its newsletter, which highlighted the Kingdom’s improved ranking in the latest edition of the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which was published in June. It praised the efforts being made by Saudi authorities to crack down on human trafficking through a series of reforms, the most recent of which was the launch of the national referral mechanism. This was strengthened by a Saudi-international training partnership, organized through the International Organization for Migration and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and a Saudi-US partnership to combat human trafficking.

The newsletter also reported on the Kingdom’s efforts to tackle terrorism, which undermines and threatens human rights. In addition, it included information about penal reforms, and the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish flogging as a punishment in ta’zir cases — in which, under Sharia, punishment is at the discretion of the judge or ruler — and replace it with imprisonment and/or a fine.