The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has banned the flying of consumer drones by hobbyists. The news comes after a suspected drone attack hit an oil facility and airport in the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi, last week.
The ban was announced by the Ministry of the Interior on Saturday and also applies to light aircraft like gliders. The ministry did not mention the recent attacks in its statement, but referenced “misuse spotted recently,” incidents of drone pilots “trespassing into areas where these types of activities are prohibited,” and a need to “ensure the safety of lives and property.”
The recent attack on the oil facility and airport in Abu Dhabi reportedly involved both “ballistic missiles and explosive-laden drones,” according to APNews, though it’s not clear from reports what the size and model of these drones were. The attacks were claimed by the Islamist, Iran-backed Houthi rebel group, which currently controls large portions of nearby Yemen and is fighting a coalition of forces supported by Arab countries including the UAE.
Houthi rebels have previously used small drones in a number of attacks on Arab nations in recent years, including in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. But last week’s strike represents a escalation in tension. BBC News notes it’s the first time the UAE has officially acknowledged such attacks, and it’s the first time they’ve been fatal — killing three and wounding six.
The UAE withdrew its forces from Yemen in 2019, but continues to supply and train local militia opposed to the Houthi. The country is keen to present itself as a bastion of stability in the region, and has been shifting diplomatic relations in recent years, including with Iran. In such a context, deadly strikes by drones and missiles are particularly unsettling.
A ban on recreational drone use may then help the UAE keep tighter control of its skies. APNews notes that the country already restricted flights in residential areas and near airports. The country’s ministry of the interior says that exceptions may be made for “work contracts or commercial or advertising projects that rely on filming using drones,” if those involved have attained “the necessary exceptions and permits.”