RIYADH – Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry on Sunday instructed drone enthusiasts to obtain permission to fly the devices until regulations were finalized, a day after security forces shot down a recreational drone near the king’s palace in Riyadh.
Amateur online videos of heavy gunfire in the capital’s Khozama district on Saturday sparked fears of possible political unrest in the world’s top oil exporter. A senior Saudi official told Reuters there were no casualties when the drone was shot down and that King Salman was not in the palace at the time.
A security screening point had noticed the flying of a small unauthorized recreational drone, leading security forces to deal with it “according to their orders and instructions”, state news agency SPA had said.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said a law for the use of drones was in its final stage and called on users to obtain the necessary police clearance to use the devices “for particular reasons in permitted locations”, state news agency SPA reported.
Saudi Arabia has witnessed a series of radical political changes over the past year under the king’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has spearheaded reforms to transform the economy and open the country culturally.
The 32-year-old leader ousted his older cousin as crown prince last summer in a palace coup and then jailed senior royals as part of an anti-corruption sweep. Prominent clerics have also been detained in an apparent bid to silence dissent.
Those moves have helped Prince Mohammed consolidate his position in a country where power had been shared among senior princes for decades and religious figures exercised significant influence on policy.
But they have also fueled speculation about a possible backlash against the crown prince, who remains popular with Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning youth population.