The Maldives has, for the first time, introduced military drones to its defence arsenal in a significant move towards enhancing national security and surveillance capabilities. The acquisition, resulting from an agreement with a Turkish company, aims to patrol the vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the island nation, extending over 900,000 square kilometres. These drones were reportedly delivered to the Maldives on 3 March and are currently stationed at Maafaru International Airport in Noonu Atoll.

The precise number of drones purchased remains undisclosed. However, the Maldivian government, under President Dr Mohamed Muizzu, plans to commence drone operations within the coming week. This development follows President Muizzu’s state visit to China in January, where he expressed intentions to acquire surveillance drones to enhance the Maldives’ military capacity and national defence strategy.

Despite the lack of official commentary on the drone acquisition, local media reports, citing senior government officials, suggest the government allocated US$37 million from the state’s contingency budget for this purpose. The drones in question are believed to be Bayraktar TB2 models, manufactured by Baykar Technologies. Renowned for their effectiveness in combat, as evidenced in Ukraine, these drones are used by militaries in 31 countries. Each drone and its control station are reportedly priced at over US$5 million.

President Muizzu, in his maiden address to Parliament in February, emphasised the need to bolster the Maldives’ military prowess to safeguard its territories and sovereignty. He remarked on the strategic importance of the Maldives’ EEZ, highlighting the nation’s right to protect its maritime domain without external proprietorial claims.

The introduction of drones aligns with recent policy amendments by the President’s Office, granting the President the authority to remove import duties on items for security service use. This amendment facilitated the procurement of military drones, underscoring the government’s commitment to modernising the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) with advanced platforms and equipment for comprehensive defence across terrestrial, aerial, and maritime domains.