The United Arab Emirates warned Sunday of the rising threat of drone attacks, such as those launched against it by Yemen’s Huthi rebels, at a defence industry conference on unmanned systems.
“We have to unite to prevent the use of drones from threatening civilian safety and destroying economic institutions,” said Mohammed bin Ahmad al-Bawardi, UAE’s minister of state for defence affairs.
The Unmanned Systems Exhibition (UMEX) kicked off in Abu Dhabi, with regional and Western military and industry representatives, including from the United States, Britain and France.
While the event will showcase the latest in high-tech drone technology, the host country warned that such weapons are becoming cheaper and more widespread.
They are now part of the arsenals of “terrorist groups that use the systems to terrorise civilians or to impact the global system in a negative way,” said the UAE’s minister of state for artificial intelligence, Omar bin Sultan al-Olama.
“That is a challenge that requires us to… work together to ensure that we can create a shield against the use of these systems.”
The UAE is part of a Saudi-led military coalition that has been fighting in Yemen since 2015 to support the government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.
While the Emirates announced it withdrew its troops from the country in 2019, it remains an influential player, backing fighters there.
The UAE has been on heightened alert since a Huthi drone and missile attack killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi on January 17.
Authorities have since thwarted three similar attacks, including one claimed by a little-known militant group believed to have ties with pro-Iran armed factions in Iraq.
The UAE’s staunch ally the United States has deployed a warship and fighter planes to help protect the Middle East financial and leisure hub, usually a safe haven in the volatile region.
Meanwhile, France said it would bolster its defence cooperation with the UAE, mostly in securing its air space.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthis have recently launched hundreds of drones against Saudi Arabia, while Tehran has been accused of being behind an attack on an Israeli ship last year.
Israel’s military said its air defences fired at a drone that had crossed into its airspace from Lebanon on Friday, the second such incident in as many days.