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Drones to deliver documents, ID cards overseas

Monday, 10 Feb 2014 | 8:40 AM ET

Unmanned flying drones will be delivering official documents such as driving licenses to United Arab Emirates (UAE) citizens "within a year," its government has said.

The move comes as part of a drive to improve the efficiency of government services.

Colored white and stamped with a UAE flag, the drone is propelled by four rotors and contains a compartment on top to store a package.

Abdulrahman Alserkal, the project's designer, said the unmanned vehicles would have fingerprint and eye recognition systems for security.

(Read more: Drones over the skies of Europe?)

Dubai Media Office

Known for its luxurious hotels and grand projects like the world's tallest building, the UAE's government appeared keen to promote this latest eye-catching project.

"The UAE will try to deliver its government services through drones. This is the first project of its kind in the world," Mohammed al-Gergawi, a minister of cabinet affairs, told Reuters on Monday as he displayed a prototype developed for the government.

Proposals for the use of drones to deliver packages were put forward in December by Amazon, while Deutsche Post DHL told CNBC it had its own drones too.

But the use of unmanned vehicles for delivery by Amazon was slammed, with critics citing security and logistical concerns. Experts believe the UAE will have similar issues.

"Are the systems that they would be introducing going to be reliable enough not to fall out of the sky?" Paul Schulte, senior visiting fellow at King's College London, told CNBC in a phone interview.

Drones are at least a decade away: Pro
Ajay Agarwal, a managing director at Bain Capital Ventures, discusses Amazon's drone plan and what sectors will gain the most from such a delivery service. He said medical supplies make the most compelling case for drone use.

(Read more: Your Amazon delivery won't arrive by drone anytime soon)

"One can see that it might work away from the main cities if you were trying to arrange deliveries out in small villages in the desert. The problems would occur when you had a higher concentration of delivery mechanisms in an urban center."

Gergawi said the drones would be tested for six months in Dubai before being introduced across the whole country within a year.

Identity cards, driving licenses and other permits are among the initial items that would be delivered.

"Within a year from now 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 all the country," Gergawi said.

—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal

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