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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, October 15, 2018

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UAE to test use of drones for delivery of government services

Embarking on a drone project

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DUBAI - The United Arab Emirates is embarking on a drone project to see if government documents including driving licenses, identity cards and permits can be delivered to citizens by miniature unmanned aerial vehicles.

The prototype for the gadget, which will be tested for six months, was unveiled on Monday by minister of cabinet affairs Mohammed al-Gergawi at the Virtual Future Exhibition conference here to the UAE Prime Minister and the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.

Al-Gergawi said the four-rotor battery operated drones are expected to be operational within a year as part of a programme to improve government services.

"Within a year 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 the whole country," Gergawi said.

The colored white vehicle with the UAE flag drawn on it, resembles a butterfly. It is about half a meter in width and has a section for small parcels on top.

"The UAE will try to deliver its government services through drones," said al Gergawi. "This is the first project of its kind in the world."

Fingerprint and eye-recognition security systems will make sure the cargo land in the right hands, according to the project designer and engineer, Abdulrahman Alserkal.

The drones will be tested in Dubai for six months, before being deployed across the country.

A major challenged the drones programme might potentially face in the UAE are extremely hot temperatures, which in summer exceeds 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), and also heavy sandstorms which are frequent in the country.

Dubai police last year started use of surveillance drones in an attempt to strengthen security and crowd control at major sporting events..

Proposals for using miniature drones for delivery of services to civilians are being studied by others like US online retailer Amazon. In December, Amazon unveiled a plan to use drones to deliver goods to US customers in just 30 minutes.

The company's Prime Air system will, according to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, use 'octocopter' mini-drones for faster delivery of goods to customers.

The Amazon proposal has however run into difficulties because of conflict with civilian air regulations.

Aircraft in the US, including miniature drones, must have either line-of-sight control from an operator or sense-and-avoid automatic control, a requirement most small drones currently lack.

Aviation experts have dismissed the claim that Amazon would be able to operationalise its drone service any time soon.

"Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] rules and regulations," Amazon.com says.

In November last year, the FAA presented a detailed plan for drones to roam across American skies by 2015.

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