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Hussain Al Fardan, Senior Head of Innovation Centre, at the 6th Dubai Customs Week in Dubai. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai Customs officials are constantly innovating to employ advanced technology and artificial intelligence to identify and catch up with suspects and seize drugs and other harmful substances in Dubai.

“Smugglers are innovating ways to trade illegal substances and drugs. But so are we. We also keep innovating ways to identify perpetrators and come up with ingenious ways of seizing illegal substances in Dubai,” said Hussain Al Fardan, Senior Head of Innovation Centre at Dubai Customs.

Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the Dubai Customs Week, he said drones are being increasingly used to seize illegal drugs and substances. “We are always looking for effective tools that are small and linked to GPS. Drones are a perfect fit. At Dubai Customs, we use these tools to reach places where humans or sniffer dogs find it a challenge. Sometimes, the drugs and other substances can be harmful for inspectors and sniffer dogs. While robots are a good substitute, they can be challenged as well. Drones, on the other hand, do the job seamlessly.”

Demonstrating how a mini Mavic drone works, Al Fardan said, “This drone is protected by a 3D cage so it does not get damaged on site. It can go under water too.”

Other tools, techniques

Khalid Al Zarooni, Innovation Specialist at Dubai Customs, explained some other innovative techniques conceptualised by Dubai Customs to educate inspectors to catch perpetrators.

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Khalid Al Zarooni, Innovation Specialist at Dubai Customs. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“As an example, we use a suitcase which comes in compartments. The compartments show different drugs that have been smuggled in and seized by our inspectors. So what we do is train our inspectors to identify various drugs and narcotics by showing them examples of these seizures. This allows them to get a good understanding of the narcotic substances.”

Beside using advanced technology and artificial intelligence, Dubai Customs officials also rely on their basic instincts to catch suspects.

“We see the body language of suspects. If we find they are not looking at us while talking, or are trying to evade questions, we know something is wrong.”

Dedicated team

Saeed Bin Faris, Manager of Awareness and Education, said Dubai Customs focuses much on research, innovation and education to raise the effectiveness of its operations.

“We have a dedicated team that works on innovation to ensure we keep pace with technological advancements, find advanced tools, catch perpetrators and curb illegal trade of drugs and other harmful substances.”

Faris, an engineer by profession, is an innovator himself. “I believe the learning never ends. Even at home, I have a workshop where I am constantly innovating and developing tools for possible use. Our innovations are being recognised globally and we have been winning several awards for our inventions.”

He added: “At Dubai Customs, we also believe in engaging the public to submit ideas with rewards. We have launched an Intellectual Property Award for Schools and Universities. This year, the deadline to participate in the award is January 30, and submission of projects ends on April 10. The winners will be announced on April 26, in conjunction with the World Intellectual Property Day.”

Around 31,000 students from 188 schools and 13 universities have participated in the award since its launch in 2007.