A growing number of countries are banning the use of commercial drones amid concerns that they can be relatively easily converted into killing machines.
The United Arab Emirates joined that list over the weekend by announcing a nationwide ban on the use of consumer drones, barring exemptions, a report from The Verge reveals.
The country’s Ministry of Interior made the announcement on Saturday, Jan. 22, a week after an oil facility and airport in the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, were targeted by a drone attack that resulted in the death of three people.
According to AP News, which attributed the attack to Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the attack involved “ballistic missiles and explosive-laden drones.” Though the ministry’s statement didn’t directly mention the drone attack, it did mention “misuse spotted recently,” and the need to “ensure the safety of lives and property.”
Though the AP News report doesn’t mention the exact model of drone used in the attacks, it wouldn’t be the first time the Houthi rebel group has used small drones in an attack in recent years in Arab nations, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The UAE hopes to better control the situation by banning the use of such drones and reserving the right to down any on sight if they are not authorized with a permit for work or filming. The UAE is joined by a number of other countries in banning the use of commercial drones, including Cuba, Iraq, Iran, and Morocco.
The danger of drones and killer robots
In recent months and years, there has been increasing concern over the dangers of drones and robotics technology that can be utilized to cause harm from remote locations. Due to these concerns, some firms are developing technologies to easily take drones out of the sky. Fortem Technologies, for example, announced it is developing the DroneHunter, a drone that captures and incapacitates other drones using a net. Drone jamming technologies are also effective against the machines, and they have been used to sabotage drone displays in some countries.
It’s not just drones that are causing concern. A bipedal robot strapped with a sniper rifle on its back, for example, sparked indignation last year on social media. It is one of many technologies that have led to petitions calling for a global ban on killer robots. In 2015, experts including Elon Musk, Noam Chomsky, and Stephen Hawking signed an open letter urging the United Nations to ban such machines, highlighting the claim that the majority of AI researchers “have no interest in building AI weapons.”