Dubai's Drone Delivery Idea Sounds Slightly Less Crazy Than Amazon's

By Robert Sorokanich on at

Jeff Bezos has new competition in the deliver-by-drone race. Dubai officials want to start using drones to deliver government documents by next year. While Amazon's drone delivery programme probably won't happen, Dubai's equally-crazy plan might have a better shot at getting off the ground.

The idea is to use quadcopter drones to deliver "small, light-value things that are time sensitive, like medicines, identification documents, vital papers and things of that nature," Dr Noah Raford, special adviser to the Office of the Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, told The National. He said the drones could carry a three-pound (1.3kg) payload on a delivery of about two miles. Abdulrahman Alserkal, the Emirati engineer who designed the project, says retina and fingerprint scanners would make sure the payload got to the correct recipient.

It's all part of a $1 million contest launched this week, soliciting inventors to find ways to use drones to benefit citizens. And frankly, it might be a little more likely than Amazon's plan. A drone can carry a passport or drivers licence across a neighborhood much more easily than that bowling ball you bought from Amazon.

And as Wired's Marcus Wohlsen points out, Dubai's government monarchy runs a lot like a business. UAE Prime Minister and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid doesn't have to grapple with the FAA like Amazon does; If he wants document delivery drones, he's likely to get them. Dubai loves drones—in fact, they're already planning to use them to fight fires.

Most of the same hurdles facing Amazon will probably hinder Dubai's plan: imprecise navigation, limited payload and range, and the fact that drones buzzing around neighbourhoods, with no operator in sight, are pretty terrifying. Personally, I think it would be somewhat strange to get a knock on your door and find a retina-scanning drone delivering your new car registration papers. How does the idea of a drone delivery service sit with you? [The National via Wired]

Image: AP