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UAE: Drones should be used to protect safety, security of civilians, says minister

Experts said strict regulations are needed to control the use of drones for security and safety purposes

Reuters file
Reuters file

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Sun 20 Feb 2022, 3:15 PM

Drones, or unmanned systems, should be used to defend and protect the safety of civilians, not to attack them, said Omar Sultan Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence.

In his key presentation in a session titled 'Understanding the Changing Unmanned Landscape' at the Unmanned Systems Conference 2022, Olama, who is also the minister of state for Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, said unmanned systems today are reshaping everything, including civilians, military, procurement and supply chain operations.

“The UAE is consistently investing in the future to ensure that it’s a the cutting-edge and moving beyond everyone when it comes to advanced technology,” he said.

“We have to understand the importance of safe-guarding our nation by ensuring that these new technologies are used to benefit us and not against us.”

He cited some of the opportunities for unmanned systems, including ensuring that human life is safeguarded. These systems can also coordinate and work effectively, as unlike humans, they don’t have emotions or anger and this allows for their deployment in ways that ensure that the results are going to be achieved in most cases, said the minister.

“These systems can also work for longer times, as they don’t get tired and don’t need to sleep. The systems can be deployed 24/7 throughout the year everywhere including at the battle ground or in the air and they are very beneficial for surveillance,” said Olama, adding that the unmanned systems also ensure a competitive edge.

Another advantage is that when the unmanned system is displayed against the conventional system, they can take decisions that are very different from other systems and can give a strategic advantage in defending ourselves at the battlefield, he said.

Citing some of the challenges for unmanned systems, the minister said: “Drones today give us the urge to increase escalation especially when deployed with Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“Unmanned systems make us feel that since they are no human beings at the battle fields, we can continue escalating and exerting pressure without thinking of the precautions. In most cases, the AI system only think of certain variables such as strength and weaknesses but they don’t think of the emotional side and what it means distracting nature and the environment.”

He said drones were now much cheaper and accessible than ever before. “This easy accessibility makes it easy to go in the hands of wrong people like terrorist groups who use these drones to attack civilians thereby by posing thereat to global peace,” said Olama.

“Another challenge is that when deployed through use of AI, the unmanned systems use historical data, which is a disadvantage because they can easily take decisions that we don’t understand.”


Shaul Shahar, an expert in aerospace and defence, who also specialised in unmanned and autonomous system and strategic management in Israel, said: “Drones are available to everyone in the commercial markets. Strict regulations are needed to control the use of drones for security and safety purposes.”

He added that it was important to utilise the new technologies to do or develop what we can’t do today.

“Until now, in the defence system, most of the defence systems developed today have nothing to do with AI. A lot need to be done to make great use of AI in the defence systems,” he said.

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