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The United Arab Emirates is set to launch a fly-by courier service that uses eyeball-scanning unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to drop off government documents.
While Americans tend to be suspicious—if not outright derisive—of drones, it appears that UAE citizens will have to get used to an unmanned aerial delivery service. This week the country announced plans to use UAVs to deliver official documents, licenses, packages, and other government materials. The service will launch with a six-month trial period in Dubai and then expand to the rest of the country.
Engineers associated with the project told Reuters that the UAVs will be equipped with fingerprint and eye-recognition hardware to ensure proper delivery and preempt theft, which sounds far more secure than signing that electronic tablet the UPS guy carries around. The project will initially include delivery of identity cards, driver’s licenses, and other permits.
According to UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, the project is the first of its kind in the world. Similar plans have been announced in China and the U.S., but not by government agencies—those projects are spearheaded by private companies aiming to deliver purchased goods.
In the U.S., private drone delivery ambitions have been stalled by FAA regulations and a general wariness among citizens. While Amazon recently made headlines by announcing plans to cut its delivery time down to 30 minutes through use of UAVs, such a service is not likely to launch any time soon—perhaps not even this decade.
Meanwhile in China, private companies are currently allowed to operate UAVs—pending approval from the government regulators, of course.
Though the UAE isn't giving specific dates for when the unmanned aerial courier service will launch, the amount of government support for the project likely means that delivery drones will be flying over Dubai long before they take off in either the US or China.
“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 explained to Reuters. “Eventually a new product will be launched across all the country.”