The UAE is conducting pilot tests to introduce unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for a range of civilian government services including delivering documents to the public and monitoring traffic.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, personally attended pilot tests for the UAVs, which are also known as drones.
Mohammed bin Rashid, Hamdan bin Mohammed watch the drone tests.
The UAE intends to use drones for a wide variety of government services, including infrastructure monitoring and geographic surveys.
This initiative supports the UAE leadership’s drive to make government more responsive to its customers and to deliver services as efficiently as possible as an early adopter of the latest technology.
Sheikh Mohammed expressed his satisfaction with the project, which Emirati engineers have been running for three months.
He instructed that drones should be used for a wider variety of services and across a larger area of the UAE.
"We want to reach to people before they reach us.
“We want to save time, to shorten distances, to increase effectiveness and to make services easier," Sheikh Mohammed said.
He was accompanied at the pilot tests by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
The UAVs under testing feature advanced technology allowing a remote pilot to track and control the plane in real time, including a high-definition instantaneous video feed.
Drones that deliver government documents will use fingerprint recognition to confirm the customer’s identity. Google map technology will be used to specify the survey area, or the location of the customer’s home for delivery.
Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs, said initial testing with the UAV technology had been promising.
"His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has given the instruction to proceed quickly with final testing and to widen the range of these experiments to encompass new services and broader geographical areas," Al Gergawi said.
"This initiative is part of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s integrated vision for a smart government, a smart society and global innovation in the use of technology to enhance government services.
“His vision is that technology should be used for the good of people and in the service of the people, and that governments should be the first to adopt the latest technologies."
Al Gergawi noted that UAVs represent a modern technological revolution with many applications, especially in the military field, but that the UAE is the first government worldwide to develop civilian applications for drones to provide government services directly to the people.
He added that the UAE leadership was committed to developing drone technology using Emirati engineering talent, in cooperation with local stakeholders, and deploying it as part of an array of unique innovations that mark out the UAE as a model for government service delivery.
A close up of the UAE drone. (REUTERS)
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 Al Serkal, 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.
A file picture of the 'octocopter' mini-drone that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once wanted to use to fly small packages to consumers in just 30 minutes. The UAE drone is a different design. (AFP)
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.