Saudi finalises drone regulation after security alarm

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia was finalising regulation for the use of recreational drones, state media said Sunday, after a toy aircraft sparked security alarm as it hovered close to royal palaces in Riyadh.

“The regulation for the use of remote controlled drones is in its final stages,” the Saudi Press Agency said, citing the interior ministry.

Until the new guidelines are adopted drone enthusiast must obtain police permission to fly their devices in “permitted sites” only, the ministry said.

The statement comes a day after the kingdom said it shot down an unidentified toy drone that hovered over a neighbourhood home to royal palaces in the capital Riyadh.

Unconfirmed videos on social media appeared to show heavy volleys of gunfire in the neighbourhood, triggering speculation of a possible coup attempt.

But the government ruled out any major security breach, adding that an investigation had been launched into the incident.

The Saudi civil aviation authority in 2015 banned the use of remotely controlled drones “of all types and sizes” without prior permits.

Security around the palaces appears to have tightened in recent months as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman oversees landmark social and economic reforms to prepare for a post-oil era, despite the risk of riling religious hardliners.

The powerful 32-year-old prince has also overseen a major military shake-up and a royal purge as he consolidates power to a degree well beyond that wielded by previous rulers.

Last October a gunman shot dead two Saudi guards and wounded three others at the gate of the royal palace in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, according to the interior ministry.

Royal guards killed the gunman, identified by the ministry as a 28-year-old Saudi national armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and three grenades.

Saudi Arabia is also embroiled in a long-running conflict with Iran-backed Huthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen, dubbed by the United Nations as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Huthi rebels have repeatedly fired missiles into Saudi territory, including Riyadh. Saudi Arabia claims to have intercepted most of them.

Agence France-Presse