A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government uses a drone to observe Islamic State fighters positions in Sirte, Libya in 2016. (Reuters- File Photo)
CAIRO – 23 April 2018: Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry asserted on Sunday that rules to regular the use of remote-controlled drones are in their final stages. This statement came few hours after a drone was shot down flying over the al-Khuzama residential neighborhood near the royal palace in Riyadh late Saturday.
The security spokesman of the Interior Ministry called upon fans of this type of drone to obtain the necessary authorization from the police of the neighborhood they live in, in order to use them for their designated purposes in their authorized locations.
The spokesman explained that this measure will be temporary until the law regulating the matter is passed.
Senior Saudi officials told Reuters that shooting the drone down left no causalities and King Salman bin Abdelaziz was not in the place at the time.
The Interior Ministry called on drone users to obtain the necessary clearance from the designated police stations to use the devices “for particular reasons in permitted locations,” according to the state-owned news agency SPA.
Egypt’s drones’ use regulations
In Dec. 2017, Egypt approved a law to regulate drone usage that might be used in terrorist attacks. The move asserted the possible threat posed by drones, as some terrorist elements use them to spot armed forces and police positions, and target them remotely.
Article 1 of the law bans local administration units, such as public ministries, local councils, public institutions, companies and individuals from using, manufacturing, trading, assessing, importing or possessing drones unless they obtain a permit from the competent authority, the Ministry of Defense.
Violating this regulation would entail a period of imprisonment of no less than one year and no more than seven years, and/or a fine of no less than LE 5,000 ($283.54) and no more than LE 50,000.
If the drones are used for terrorist activities, the punishment could be life imprisonment or the death penalty if a person was killed. The court will also confiscate the drones and hand them over to the armed forces for their use.
The law gives the members of the military judiciary the status of judicial police commissioners, for enforcing the executive regulation of the law and its issued resolutions.
Consequently, the law makes the Ministry of Defense the sole authority responsible for licensing the use of drones, especially those which are capable of carrying explosives or weapon systems, and may punish individuals for importing, manufacturing, assembling, handling or trading without its permission.
Drone presence in the Middle East
Drones have recently become one of the primary military tools used in armed conflicts in the Middle East region. Drones have a diversity of functions to carry out, and this diversity gives drones an additional advantage, which is demanded highly by regular armies and militias. Moreover, they are relatively cheap in comparison to planes or fighter jets, as a means to carry out reconnaissance missions, surveillance or air raids.
In 2014, Morocco concluded a deal with France to purchase three military drones.
In 2015, the Turkish military revealed that it had enhanced its use of drones on the Turkish-Syrian border, which Turkey has used in its war against the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey.
In late 2015, a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashenkov, stated that Russian forces used drones for reconnaissance since Russia’s intervention in Syria began.
In Feb. 2016, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps announced that they used drones, called Shahed 129’s, to help the Syrian regime contain the civil war. Iran claimed at the time that those drones had the capacity to carry up to eight missiles.
In March 2017, news reports revealed that Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq used drones to monitor ISIS activity wherever they go. The reports confirmed that the Kurds used the drones in coordination with the anti-ISIS alliance, led by the United States.
ISIS disclosed in January, 2017, what the group defined as a “drone Jihadist units.” A tool to compensate for the loss of its fighters since the battle to retake Mosul was launched in October 2016 in Iraq, they were used to devastating effect.
Hezbollah militias in Lebanon have used drones to survey Israeli air defense positions. In addition, Hezbollah used drones to back the Syrian regime in the countryside of Aleppo in late 2016.
Israel is deemed a regional and global drone-producing center. It is the second largest drone exporter in the world after the United States; it’s reported that Israel’s drone exports reached $4.6 billion between 2005 and 2012.
Turkey launched its own drone in April 2016, named the Bayraktar TB2. The drone was equipped with locally produced missiles manufactured by Baykar Makina.
Drone use examples globally
In October, a match in the Euro 2016 qualifier in Belgrade was stopped after a four-rotor drone carrying an Albanian flag was flown over the stadium. Also in France, nuclear power stations were illegally buzzed by drones in 2014.
In addition, an unidentified drone came close to hitting a plane, with 132 passengers and five crew members on board, as it landed at London’s Heathrow Airport in April 2016. Fortunately, the plane landed safely.
Hence, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has sets rules on drone use in the U.K., called an air navigation order. According to the authority, an unmanned aircraft must never be flown beyond the normal sight of the person operating it, and if it is with camera it must be flown away from people, vehicles, buildings and airports. For commercial purposes, operators must fly drones with the permission from the CAA.
The CAA prosecuted two unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operators owing to safety breaches. There have been arrests, such as that of a man from Nottingham in October for flying a drone over Manchester City's stadium during their game against Tottenham Hotspur.
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration limits the use of drones; in July, two men in New York were arrested after flying their drone into a police helicopter. It states that if these drones are used within five miles of an airport, its air traffic control tower should be notified in advance.
UN experts have expressed their concerns over the use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan by the U.S. to target militants. They said that this use should be regarded as a breach of international law, unless Washington can demonstrate that it follows the appropriate precautions and accountability mechanisms.
In this regard, in August 2010 the then-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Pakistan, during which he expressed his concerns about killing people by such drones and underscored the need to strictly regulate their use under international law.