Jeff Bezos has some new competition in the crazy drone delivery race. Dubai officials want to start using drones to deliver government documents by next year. And while Amazon’s drone delivery program probably won’t happen, Dubai’s equally-crazy plan might have a slightly 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 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 $US1 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 neighbourhood 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 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid doesn’t have to grapple with the FAA like Amazon does. If he wants document delivery drones, he’s probably likely to get them. Dubai loves drones — in fact, they’re already planning to use them to fight fires.
Look, most of the same hurdles facing Amazon will probably hinder Dubai’s plan: imprecise navigation, limited payload and range, and the plain old fact that drones buzzing around neighborhoods with no operator in sight are pretty terrifying. Personally, I think it’d be super freaky to get a knock on your door and find a retina-scanning drone there delivering your new car registration papers or whatever. Although that still sounds a hell of a lot better than waiting in line at the DMV. [The National via Wired]