RIYADH: Saudi drone enthusiasts were celebrating on Sunday after aviation chiefs moved to end confusion over the devices’ legality.
A recreational drone permit will cost SR250, just under $70, the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) said. Applicants require only a national identity card or iqama, and the make and serial number of the drone.
Commercial drone permits will cost SR500, although applicants must complete a GACA training course.
One permit is required for each drone, but there is no need to apply for further permission to fly it.
Anyone wishing to import a drone must register the serial number on the GACA website to obtain customs clearance. “If the drone is registered, Saudi Customs will allow it into the country, no problem,” GACA said.
The decision has delighted hobbyists, enthusiasts and commercial drone operators who faced investigation and detention if caught. Several people trying to smuggle drones into the country have had them confiscated by Customs, and foreign journalists and filmmakers were also banned from bringing them into the Kingdom without permission from the Media Ministry.
“There was always a great deal of confusion regarding drone permits,” said Seif, a Saudi filmmaker. “Where you were referred to depended on who you asked and you ended up not flying or flying illegally.”
The permit system will also end the black market in drones, with heavily marked-up prices.
The machines are expected to appear soon in stores around the country, at market price.