After aerial attacks, United Arab Emirates bans drone use

UAE drone ban

Less than a week after deadly aerial attacks of an oil refinery and the Abu Dhabi international airport, officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced an indefinite ban on flights of consumer drones and light sports aircraft.

The announcement by the UAE’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) came nearly a week after January 17 strikes attributed to Iran-allied Houthi forces killed three people at an oil facility, and caused damage and a fire at the airport. Although officials described those attacks as having used cruise missiles and military grade drones, the generally tightening security initiatives in the country led authorities to ban flights of commercial UAVs, as well as light planes and gliders.

“MOI is currently stopping all flying operations for owners, practitioners and enthusiasts of drones, including drones and light sports aircraft,” the communique said of the prohibition that went into place on Saturday. “MOI reminded users that anyone performing these activities during that period and disregarding guidelines will be subject to legal liabilities.”

While the official statement does not indicate how long the ban of drone use in the UAE will last, a Reuters report said the interdiction would be in force for a month.

The move will not merely put a serious crimp in the activities of UAV hobbyists. According to the statement, even businesses in the UAE using drones in their work will need to seek special exclusions from the ban. 

“Entities that have work contracts or commercial or advertising projects that rely on filming using drones must communicate with the permit authorities to take the necessary exceptions and permits to carry out their work and projects during this period to avoid any consequences that affect the timing of these projects,” it said.

The UAE is a member of the Saudi-led and US-allied coalition battling Houthi rebels in Yemen, which claimed responsibility for the January 17 aerial strikes. Although Abu Dhabi withdrew most of its own troops from that brutal conflict, it has remained a staunch backer of the anti-Houthi front, and an opponent of Iranian influence in the region generally. 

Though UAE authorities say Yemen-launched delivery devices were responsible for the attacks, the MOI’s communique indicated its ban was at least partially motivated by commercial drones having been observed in illicit operation by presumed hobbyists.

“The decision came after the misuse spotted recently, not limiting the practice of these sports to the areas identified in the user permits and trespassing into areas where these types of activities are prohibited,” it said – suggesting the measure aims to thwart small craft on surveillance or small bombing missions that Houthi forces have used them in before.

Photo: Roman Logov

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