Dubai Customs is using drones for surveillance of suspicious activity and to support inspection of trade vessels in Dubai Creek.
A senior official told Gulf News the unmanned quad-copters were launched last month and may be deployed in similar operations in Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, the world’s biggest manmade harbour.
The revelation came during the Dubai Government Achievements Exhibition (DGAE) .
The remote-controlled drones send live video to ground staff and cover all viewing angles during inspections, said Falah Al Samma, director of Dubai Customs’ technical services.
The live feed can be viewed on a smartphone configured to work with the drones.
“And if we have a vessel of interest — a suspected smuggling boat, for example, entering the Creek — we can follow it anonymously; see what it’s up to.”
The drones, which can fly a kilometre high and sideways, can return to the last point of contact or to a pre-set location if communication is lost.
The force is mulling launching other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with greater capabilities in terms of flying time and range, equipment and cameras.
“We have projects in Research and Development. We’re studying the feasibility of night vision or infrared, for instance. This is still under review as there are many considerations,” Al Samma said.
Live pictures over the 4G satellite network will also be streamed to the Dubai Customs command and control room, where they can be replayed and archived.
Apart from ports, the drones may be deployed in border areas or places “where the car can’t reach”.
“It will be cheap, easy and effective to use in supporting our operations.”
Drone use has emerged in other state services recently and is one part of a wider push by Dubai towards a Smart City and Smart Government.
In February, Dubai revealed a plan at the Government Summit to deliver official documents by drones.
Earlier, Dubai Civil Defence introduced a drone project to monitor fire incidents and assist first responders in covering all views of a blaze.
Also launched at the summit was a new Dh1 million prize for inventing drones delivering UAE government services more efficiently and effortlessly.
The competition — launched under the direction of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai — includes an international version with a $1 million (Dh3.67 million) prize for government services outside the UAE.
It follows other initiatives to deliver state services on smartphones and tablets and linking public services on high-speed wireless networks.
Last month, officials launched the Smart Government App store that serves as a single-window, one-stop shop for some 100 UAE government apps offering around 700 services.
Several Dubai government departments are taking part in DGAE until Thursday at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The departments are showcasing their current key services as well as future plans in some cases.
The 2014 edition is titled “Local Government, Global Achievements”.
The three-day event is running alongside the main Annual Investment Meeting at the venue.
It is organised by The Dubai Government Excellence Programme, part of the General Secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai.