UAE invests heavily in unmanned weapons after drone attacks


The United Arab Emirates is ploughing money into drones, robots and other unmanned weaponry as autonomous warfare becomes more and more wide-spread — including in attacks on the Gulf country by Yemeni rebels.

Large, black drones with the orange logo of EDGE, the UAE’s arms consortium, were on dis-play at the Unmanned Systems Exhibition (UMEX), along with remote-controlled machineguns and other “smart” weapons.

The exhibition comes at a time of growing un-manned attacks around the region, including the Jan 17 drone-and-missile assault by Yemen rebels that killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi, the first in a series of similar incidents. EDGE, an Abu Dhabi-based defence consortium that groups 25 Emirati firms, was formed three years ago but reached an estimated $4.8 billion in arms sales in 2020 — nearly all of them to the UAE government.

The group was ranked 23rd among the 100 top arms-producing and military services around the globe in 2020, according to the Stockholm Interna-tional Peace Research Institute. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels since 2015. Although it withdrew ground troops in 2019, it remains a key player in the grinding conflict.

EDGE’s most lucrative deals have included maintenance of military jets, worth almost $4 bil-lion, as well as providing guided munitions at $880 million.

On Tuesday, it unveiled a vehicle-mounted re-mote-controlled assault rifle that can swivel 360 degrees and has thermal imaging and a laser range finder accurate to 50 centimetres for targets more than two kilometres away.—AFP

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