DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - A Yemen rebel drone strike this week on a critical Saudi oil pipeline shows that the otherwise-peaceful sandy reaches of the Arabian Peninsula now are at risk of similar assault, including an under-construction nuclear power plant and Dubai International Airport, among the world's busiest. U.N. investigators said the Houthis' new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 km (930 miles). That puts the far reaches of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two main opponents of the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen, within reach of drones difficult to detect and track. Their relatively simple design, coupled with readily available information online, makes targeting even easier, analysts say. "These installations are easily findable, like on Google Earth," said Tim Michetti, an expert on illicit weapons technology with experience in Yemen.
Dubai International Airport is the latest to halt flights over a drone scare following similar incidents at London's Gatwick and Heathrow. The world's third-busiest airport temporarily stopped operations for just under 30 minutes due to "unauthorized drone activity," according to a tweet from the Dubai Media Office. Incoming flights were permitted to land during the disruption, reports The New York Times, which occurred between 10.15AM and 10.45AM local time. Operations are now reportedly back to normal. "Dubai Airports has worked closely with the appropriate authorities to ensure that the safety of airport operations is maintained at all times and to minimize any inconvenience to our customers," the airport said.
Flight departures from Dubai International, which handled around 90 million passengers last year, were suspended between 10:13 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. The incident, a Dubai official said, was caused by "a guy in the desert" operating a drone. It wasn't immediately clear if the person was apprehended. Although operating a drone without a license is illegal, individuals often fly their drones in the open space of the desert, in part to take pictures in the often scenic setting. The suspension came only weeks after U.S. regulators halted flights at Newark Liberty International Airport after a drone was spotted near another New Jersey airport.
Dubai International Airport was forced to ground flights for half an hour due to a drone flying in the area, the airport says. It said airspace around the airport closed just after 0800 local time (0400 GMT) on Wednesday because of "unauthorised drone activity". Arrivals resumed at 0835, with full operations restarting by 0907. It is not the first time drones have delayed flights at the airport, one of the world's busiest. "We remind all [drone] operators that activities are not permitted within 5km (3.11 miles) of any airport or landing area,'' Dubai Airports said on Twitter.
Yemen's Houthi rebels say they attacked Abu Dhabi's international airport in the United Arab Emirates with a drone. According to the Houthi-run Al-Masirah television channel, the Sammad-3 drone launched three attacks on the airport on Thursday. It was not immediately clear if there was any damage or casualties. Abu Dhabi airport tweeted earlier in the day there had been an incident involving a supply vehicle that had not affected operations. It was unclear if it was related to the reported drone attack.