United Arab Emirates Grounds Recreational Drones in Wake of Deadly Drone Strike

United Arab Emirates Grounds Recreational Drones in Wake of Deadly Drone Strike
Photo: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Drone hobbyists are on a government-mandated hiatus in the United Arab Emirates in the wake of last week’s deadly attack on a key oil facility outside the nation’s capital city of Abu Dhabi, the Associated Press reports.

On Saturday, UAE’s interior ministry issued a statement warning drone operators will face “legal liabilities” if caught flying the devices for recreation within the nation. Some businesses seeking to use drones for filming may be eligible for exemptions as approved by permit authorities. Penalties include up to three years in jail and fines equivalent to roughly $US27,000 ($37,481), the Dubai-based Khaleej Times reports.

It marks the latest escalation in air restrictions since Monday’s drone strikes claimed by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels. In one of the worst attacks to date on UAE soil, the strikes blew up several fuel trucks and sparked fires in the surrounding industrial area and nearby international airport, killing three people and wounding six others, Bloomberg reports.

The UAE ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, said Wednesday that both missiles and drones were involved in the incidents.

“Several attacks — a combination of cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and drones — targeted civilian sites in the UAE,” he said at a virtual conference organised by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.

“Several were intercepted, a few of them didn’t and three innocent civilians, unfortunately, lost their lives,” Al-Otaiba continued.

UAE regulations already restrict drone flights in residential areas as well as near, around, and over airports, the AP noted. Drone hobbyists are required by law to obtain a certificate from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority before flying them in UAE airspace.

On Tuesday, the agency notified current and former applicants that the certification process is on indefinite hold, the Khaleej Times reports, adding that now when users navigate to apply for any drone-related service on its website, an error message pops up that states, “Sorry, this service is temporarily suspended until further notice.”