Dubai: Drones will deliver your food, packages by early 2024, municipality officials say

Civic body is charting airspace across the emirate to plan routes and designate landing spots for unmanned aerial vehicles


Nasreen Abdulla

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FILE: A drone demonstrates delivery capabilities. Photo: Reuters
FILE: A drone demonstrates delivery capabilities. Photo: Reuters

Published: Mon 16 Oct 2023, 3:58 PM

Last updated: Mon 16 Oct 2023, 11:04 PM

Drone deliveries in Dubai might become a reality as early as next year, according to the officials at the Dubai Municipality (DM). The civic body is actively charting the airspace across the emirate to plan routes strategically and designate landing spots for drones and unmanned aerial vehicles.

"This is a project that we are working on alongside the civil aviation," said Wesam Lootah, CEO of Corporate Support Services Sector at DM. "We are doing 3D zoning of the airspace and building airways. This will help to accelerate the adoption of drones in many aspects."

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The project titled Dubai Horizon System is the second phase of the Dubai Digital Twin initiative that will create an accurate digital replica of Dubai, complete with all its assets, landmarks, and amenities, in both 2D and 3D maps.

Wesam Lootah
Wesam Lootah

It is expected to improve the safety and security of air navigation in the emirate and ensure seamless operations. "Based on the ground planning, 3D modelling and the digital twin, we create like zones of where to fly and where not to fly," said Maitha Al Nuaimi, Director of Geographic Information Systems Center. "When the mapping is complete, other governmental agencies will be able to use the service to do drone delivery of parcels, medication and food."


According to Maitha, one of the most challenging things about the project was the fast-changing nature of the city. "Dubai is changing," she said. "It's not static. So, one day, there is a building. On the second day, there is a crane. On the third day, there is another thing. So, linking all of these data into one platform was a little bit challenging. However, we have succeeded in doing so."

Despite these challenges, she said the mapping has already been completed in one location. "We have finished the mapping in Dubai Silicon Oasis and are testing it," she said. "Once all the tests are completed, we will be expanding it to other areas in the city. Dubai residents can soon expect a lot of drones flying in the air shortly."

Maitha Al Nuaimi
Maitha Al Nuaimi

Using drones and AI

In addition, the DM has also been using drones and artificial intelligence (AI) to inspect building violations. "With drones, we can detect from an aerial vertical perspective as well as a horizontal view if there are any violations," said Maitha. "For example, if there is a crack on an AC unit or the colour of a building is not as per the code, we are using AI to help us detect these."

A pilot project that was launched in December last year, the building inspection project has yielded quick results. "We are able to catch violations instantly," she said. "In addition to the drones, we are also using panoramic AI images to spot issues. This helps inspectors focus on problem buildings rather than doing random checks."


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