Dubai is to start using drones to deliver driving licences and other official documents, officials have claimed.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) revealed plans to use miniature unmanned aircraft as part of programme to improve government services.

It said the four-rotor drones are expected to be operational within a year.

The system will apparently use fingerprint and retina identification to protect the cargo from unauthorised recipients.

“The UAE will try to deliver its government services through drones,” cabinet affairs minister Mohammed al Gergawi said.

“This is the first project of its kind in the world.”

The announcement was made in Dubai at the Virtual Future Exhibition conference, where a prototype was displayed in front of UAE Prime Minister and the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.

The UAE and Dubai, its largest city, are known for innovative showmanship and a love of gadgets.

The battery-powered test drone is about 18 inches wide and the rotors are encased to protect damage, and emblazoned with the UAE flag.

Local engineer Abdulrahman Alserkal, who designed the project, confirmed eye-recognition and fingerprint technology would be used.

Mr al Gergawi said the aircraft would be tested for durability and efficiency in Dubai for six months, before being introduced across the UAE within a year.

He said air mail would include delivery of identity cards, driving licences and other permits in the country.

Proposals for miniature drones have run into difficulties elsewhere, because of conflict with civilian air regulations.

US online retailer Amazon announced a prototype delivery drone in December but aviation experts dismissed the claim that it would be operational any time soon.

Aircraft in the US, including miniature drones, must have either line-of-sight control from an operator or sense-and-avoid automatic control.

Most small drones currently lack the level of control needed.

UAE’s drone project also faces similar hurdles, along with blistering summer temperatures and aggressive sand storms.

Dubai, the home of the world’s tallest building, also suffers a similar problem to that of urban deliveries in high density areas of the US, such as Manhattan.

But the Middle Eastern nation has promised to push ahead with its plan.

“Within a year from now we will understand the capabilities of the system and what sort of services, and how far we can deliver,” Mr al Gergawi said.

“Eventually a new product will be launched across all the country.”