Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s… your brand new driver’s license being delivered via drone. If you live in the United Arab Emirates, this could soon be a possibility if a new government initiative comes to fruition.
The UAE recently announced plans to deploy unmanned aerial drones for the delivery of official documents to residents, a first-of-its-kind move expected to be implemented across the region within a year. To ensure security, these drones will also be fitted with fingerprint and retina scanners.
Although civilian use of drones has run into roadblocks, more regulatory than technological, in various instances around the world, this step by the UAE government sees the idea gain more traction. But what are the benefits of transporting packages by drone? Several, enthusiasts claim, including a more efficient and leaner workforce in organizations that deliver products. Without needing to send or even hire a driver, companies can cut costs and overcome obstacles traditionally associated with conventional delivery systems. For example, e-tailers could significantly shorten dispatch time, and extend their reach to remote, otherwise inaccessible areas.
The novelty factor aside, this technology can also be used to offset a wide range of logistical problems, both in underdeveloped and disaster-prone areas. One initiative aims to harness the many potential constructive applications of drone-based delivery in Africa to narrow the widening gap between incremental growth and a lack of infrastructure. Alongside the objective of making drones as affordable as motorbikes on the continent within a decade, the initiative hopes drones will be used to deliver food and medicines to remote areas without proper roads. Successful trials could also lead to mass adoption for other purposes in developed countries. Organic food, for instance, could be delivered straight from farms to consumers, drastically reducing the carbon footprint typically racked up by the food industry.
While the consumer enthusiasm for drones remains fairly strong, as the success of several marketing campaigns across the world substantiates, the technology must overcome several hurdles for adoption at scale. Privacy concerns, one of the primary issues furthered by detractors, necessitate a stringent, enforceable regulatory framework to govern drone use. Possible solutions include limitations on the equipment’s technical specifications akin to motor vehicle classes, alongside an exhaustive process of certification and licensing for private and commercial use. Financial outlay, too, is another problematic area, as manufacturing these vehicles is still a cost-intensive operation. It is also important for the drones to be structurally robust, with the ability to weather all types of conditions critical to their functionality.
Reports suggest that drones could be available for commercial use over the next decade. Acceptance by regulatory bodies alongside an elaborate, feasible system of governance, however, may be the only chance of drones filling our skies anytime soon.
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