DUBAI Feb 10 The United Arab Emirates says it
plans to use unmanned aerial drones to deliver official
documents and packages to its citizens as part of efforts to
upgrade government services.
The wealthy Gulf state is known for its showmanship - it
boasts the tallest skyscraper in the world - and its love of
high-technology gadgets. The drone project appears to satisfy
"The UAE will try to deliver its government services through
drones. This is the first project of its kind in the world,"
Mohammed al-Gergawi, a minister of cabinet affairs, said on
Monday as he displayed a prototype developed for the government.
The battery-operated vehicle, about half a metre (1-1/2
feet) across, resembles a butterfly with a top compartment that
can carry small parcels. Coloured white and enblazoned with the
UAE flag, it is propelled by four rotors.
Local engineer Abdulrahman Alserkal, who designed the
project, said fingerprint and eye-recognition security systems
would be used to protect the drones and their cargo.
Gergawi said the drones would be tested for durability and
efficiency in Dubai for six months, before being introduced
across the UAE within a year. Services would initially include
delivery of identity cards, driving licences and other permits.
Proposals for the civilian use of drones have run into
practical difficulties elsewhere in the world. In December
Amazon.com Inc chief executive Jeff Bezos said his
company planned to deliver goods to millions of customers with a
fleet of drones, but safety and technical issues mean the plan
is unlikely to become a reality in the United States this
decade, engineers say.
The UAE drone programme faces similar obstacles, plus
temperatures which often exceed 40 degrees Centigrade (104
degrees Fahrenheit) in summer and heavy sandstorms which
occasionally sweep across the desert country.
"Within a year from now we will understand the capabilities
of the system and what sort of services, and how far we can
deliver. Eventually a new product will be launched across all
the country," Gergawi said.
(Editing by Andrew Torchia)