The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is known for its showmanship and state-of-the-art technology, intends to develop drone technology for government services and has launched a $1 million international competition for the best innovative use of unmanned aircraft to help improve the lives of people.
"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," Dubai's ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said in a statement.
Noah Raford, an American adviser to the office of UAE Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said the Emirates is already experimenting with drones and looking at prototypes to deliver documents, like national identification cards and driving licenses, to citizens.
Raford says the UAE hopes to see drones in the sky by early next year.
Local engineer Abdulrahman Alserkal, who designed the project, told Reuters news agency that fingerprint and eye-recognition security systems would be used to protect the drones and their cargo.
The drones would be tested for durability and efficiency in Dubai for six months, before being introduced across the UAE.
Unmanned aircraft are already used for seeding and spraying of crops in Japan. In India, wildlife authorities have used drones for aerial surveillance of a sprawling natural game park to protect the one-horned rhinoceros from armed poachers.
Online retailer Amazon.com grabbed headlines last year when its CEO Jeff Bezos said the company is testing package delivery using "octocopter" mini-drones to fly small packages to consumers in just 30 minutes.
The US retail giant said its ambitious project still requires additional safety testing and federal approval, but Bezos estimated that Amazon "Prime Air" would be up and running within four to five years.