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.
An estimated 7 million drones will be flying in the skies by 2020; Claudia Cowan reports on the new technology being developed to keep airports safe. But some people either don't care or use drones to intentionally disrupt airport operations. Last December, drone sightings at London's Gatwick Airport forced a three-day shutdown, and canceled flights left thousands of stranded passengers scrambling. No one has been arrested in the case, and this past April, investigators said it could have been an inside job. In recent months, suspected or confirmed drone activity has grounded flights in Dubai, New Zealand, Israel, and at Newark Airport in New Jersey.
A Saudi-led coalition has launched air raids on Yemen's Hodeidah, in an apparent resumption of military operations on the strategic Red Sea city after Houthi rebels attacked two Saudi oil tankers and one of the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) main airports. The Houthi-run al-Masirah TV said in a series of tweets on Friday that coalition air strikes had targeted a radio station inside the city and a fishing pier. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The latest offensive on the port city of Hodeidah came a day after Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone attack on Abu Dhabi's international airport. According to the Al-Masirah television channel, the Sammad-3 drone launched three attacks on the 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.
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.