Drone deliveries get off the ground in Dubai

The United Arab Emirates plans to deliver official documents via 18-inch, four-propeller, unmanned aerial drones that come equipped with fingerprint and eye-recognition security systems.

An Amazon prototype package delivery drone flying through the sky. CBS

People's jaws dropped at the idea of Amazon using drones to deliver packages to customers in the US, but what about a government using a drone delivery service?

The United Arab Emirates announced Monday that it has begun testing its own unmanned delivery drones, which aim to quickly get official documents -- like drivers licenses, ID cards, and permits -- to the country's residents, according to Reuters.

"The UAE will try to deliver its government services through drones," Minister of Cabinet Affairs Mohammed al-Gergawi told Reuters. "This is the first project of its kind in the world."

The government's prototype aerial drones are about 18-inches long and are battery-operated. They have four rotors that propel them as they carry small packages in a top compartment. The machines have fingerprint and eye-recognition security systems to ensure the cargo only goes to intended recipients.

Amazon made a splash in December when it announced that it was testing a drone delivery service to deliver packages within 30 minutes of an order being placed. Despite the company building an 8-propeller prototype and showing off the "octocoper" to various media outlets, it's likely the service won't fire up anytime soon. The company faces strict privacy regulations from US lawmakers and the Federal Aviation Administration.

While aerial delivery drones sound futuristic, a couple of other countries have already begun allowing their use. A parcel service in China began testing delivering packages via drone in the city of Dongguang in September and a textbook rental start-up in Australia will start drone deliveries to Sydney customers this spring.

The UAE's drone program will commence with beta testing in Dubai for the next six months and the government hopes to have the service up and running throughout the country in 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," Gergawi told Reuters. "Eventually a new product will be launched across all the country."

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About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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