Unmanned aerial vehicles will be buzzing in the skies west of Doha this month as members of Qatar’s Armed Forces conduct reconnaissance drone exercises.
According to coordinates published by Qatar’s state news agency, the exercises will take place in a 1km radius at a special forces group camp between Salwa Road and Al Waab Street, near the Industrial Area.
The drones will fly to a height of 1,200 feet in exercises that will run until the end of September, QNA states.
While the aircraft model was not specified, the Hürriyet Daily News previously reported that Turkish defense manufacturer Baykar Makina sold Qatar 10 mini drones in 2011 for $2.5 million.
According to the company’s website, the Bayraktar is used for short-range reconnaissance and surveillance missions. It is launched by an operator throwing it into the air and can fly for up to 80 minutes. The aircraft is 1.2 meters long and has a wingspan of two meters.
The Turkish drones were the first unmanned aerial vehicles purchased by Qatar, according to Strategic Defence Intelligence, a British website tracking the security industry.
Qatar’s armed forces are not the only ones operating drones here. The country is home to the largest US air base in the Middle East, and the US maintains “drone hubs” in Qatar and in the UAE to conduct renaissance over the Gulf, according to the Washington Post.
Separately, The Sunday Times reports that the US has a fleet of armed unmanned aerial vehicles in Qatar that could be used to attack fighters in Iraq.
Furthermore, US service personnel stationed in Qatar also oversee American drone flights across the broader region. Foreign Policy reported in 2012 that the Combined Air and Space Operations Center at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base:
“…serves as a drone operations command and control center throughout the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan, for the U.S. Air Force, which through CAOC manages day-to-day joint air operations. Lawyers are stationed at Al-Udeid 24 hours a day to approve drone strikes carried about by the U.S. military.”
On the civilian side, the Qatar Scientific Club operates a small runway in Al Khor for radio-controlled plane and unmanned aerial vehicle flights. And a drone was used earlier this year to map the Al Ruwayda archaeological site in northern Qatar, according to the Gulf Times.
Some local residents have also posted videos of themselves flying drones for fun in Qatar – something that’s raised privacy concerns in other countries.
The pilot behind this video, however, noted he steers clear of the country’s no-fly zones and government installations.