Dubai took the first steps to creating a commercial drone network on Saturday as it set out plans for miniature helipads and an air traffic control system.
The Dubai Sky Dome project would pave the way for the delivery of packages and even the transport of passengers, the government said.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, president of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, said an initial framework has been drawn up that includes laws and regulations.
The Dubai Sky Dome will create an airspace infrastructure for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that could connect buildings through “runways and miniature airports across the city”.
“Drone systems represent one of the most promising emerging technologies in the civil aviation and transport sector,” said Sheikh Ahmed, also chief executive and founder of Emirates Airline.
An air traffic control system to manage the use of multiple UAVs would be named ‘Dubai Shield’.
Officials said a series of measures would need to be in place to “address safety and security risks faced by the airspace due to drone activity”.
Mohamed Abdullah Lengawi, head of the Dubai Sky Dome project team, said it “aims to tap into massive potential opportunities for drone systems”.
“Global studies indicate that the drones transport systems market, which consists mainly of delivery of goods, transport of passengers and freight, surveying and imaging, holds considerable promise as an emerging sector.”
Companies including Amazon, DHL and UPS have tested drones that can deliver packages in recent years as they look to cut down on traditional vehicle use.
Medical firms such as San Francisco-based Zipline has flown medicine delivery drones in Rwanda and Ghana for several years and in April asked US authorities for permission to operate domestic services as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dubai’s government said a new law covers the use, circulation, registration, manufacturing, import, sale, and possession of drones.
It also sets out rules governing the use of airspace, including around airports and other restricted and dangerous areas.