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Mon 10 Feb 2014 12:52 PM

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UAE gov't to use aerial drones to deliver post

Battery-operated unmanned vehicles will be tested for 6-mths before being introduced within a year

UAE gov't to use aerial drones to deliver post
(Getty Images - Photo for illustrastive purpose only)

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 both interests.

"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.

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SWK 5 years ago

Are you sure ? Check out the Jeff Bezo (Amazon chief) they were just in R&D for this last year, still needs FFA approval, also how can you be sure it do not land on someones head, seriously another gimmick !!

Jake 5 years ago

not going to happen, unless it is pushed so the UAE can get another pointless "first" on their list. Delivering goods in urban areas is not an easy task.

Doug 5 years ago

Given that Dubai doesn't even have a geographical postal address system and most residents typically get post delivered to their office, rather than a domestic address, I really can't see this taking off (if you'll pardon the pun).

Besides, it's impossible to get anything delivered in Dubai without setting aside at least two days to stay at home, adding 500Dhs worth of credit to your phone and then eventually having very confused conversations about turning left at Fish Roundabout and then looking for the blue building between Pizza Hut and the Rotana or whatever. Maybe the authorities should sort out the address system first before they start showboating with a drone.

SAM 5 years ago

I though the Bugatti Veyron was purchased for that purpose?

His Excellency Dr Paul 5 years ago

It'll still take 20 days for a minor trade license document change and visa cancellation, as your documents worm their way through pointless bureaucracy waiting for stamps from people who apparently work 2 hours a day if they feel like turning up.

But they'll shave a hour off the delivery time by firing the guy on the bike and getting a radio controlled helicopter to deliver the docs.

I suppose though that considering the UAE roads are a killing field of lunatics and mass carnage, this is one of the few countries where having the sky full of model helicopters zipping around might actually be safer than having manned vehicles on the roads.

Louie Tedesco 5 years ago

Chasing headlines for the sake of being in the news is getting tiring. In a country unable to muster a proper postal delivery system, unable to establish common street addresses and signage, the announcement of using drones to deliver mail comes as an early April Fools joke. The continued use of the antiquated PO Box system reminds one of rural wild-west mail delivery in the early 1900’s, where settlers had to saddle up their horse or ride their carriages to the nearest outpost to collect their mail. Authorities have for years been promising to establish mail delivery to the high-tech facilities that we live and work in yet this have never materialized. Instead, citizens must venture into the daily traffic chaos to seek a parking spot at the PO Box repository. Then queue up for ages after paying a 2 dirham fee to eventually receive their parcel that should have been delivered to their doorstep. Drones? You must be joking. More cushy high-paid indoor jobs for locals, perhaps.

BritPop 5 years ago

Where will the drones land if you live in an apartment block?

Who will prevent people from stealing the documents and the drone?

Who will be responsible for preventing the myriad of drones colliding with cranes, window cleaning cradles, buildings, helicopters and one another?

Another well thought out plan!

Critical 5 years ago

Kindly put it on for carrefour, hyperpanda and lulu center. As most the population go here for grocery. Having drones run by them for delivery will reduce traffic on the roads. Just a suggestion :)