The United Arab Emirates (UAE) intends to use drones to deliver drivers licenses and other government documents to its citizens as part of an ambitious plan announced this week. Officials unveiled a prototype unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on Monday, and plan to test it for six months in Dubai before expanding it to the rest of the country within a year.
"Within a year from now we will understand the capabilities of the system and what sort of services, and how far we can deliver," Mohammed al-Gergawi, minister of cabinet affairs, told Reuters. "Eventually a new product will be launched across all the country."
Amazon announced a similar drone delivery program in December, touting the potential for half-hour delivery shipping. The announcement sparked widespread speculation and intrigue, though the initiative faces regulatory and technological hurdles, and it will likely be years before it gets off the ground.
UAV meets UAE
The battery-powered drone unveiled in the UAE this week features four rotors, and would carry packages in an upper cargo compartment. The prototype measures about 18 inches in width, though details on its technological capabilities remain unclear. Abdulrahman Alserkal, an engineer who designed the project, told Reuters that the drone will feature fingerprint and retina recognition systems, presumably to protect the drone and its packages from falling into the wrong hands. The UAV would also have to sustain the severe heat and sandstorms that are common in the desert country.
UAE authorities have shown greater interest in drone technologies in recent months. Last month, authorities in Dubai began testing quad-copter UAVs to help firefighters monitor and analyze fires. Dubai police, meanwhile, began using surveillance drones last year in an attempt to strengthen security and crowd control at major sporting events.