UAE’s Federal Customs Authority & HCT Use Canines in World-First Coronavirus Detection Study


Customs K9 sniffer dogs show 98% accuracy in rapid detections 

The Federal Customs Authority and the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) have successfully undertaken a world-first study into deploying trained dogs for the detection of COVID-19.

Under the academic and professional agreement, the parties conducted the first, world-class scientific study to detect the presence of the coronavirus, through the use of Customs K9 sniffer dogs. A joint task force was formed, consisting of experts, researchers and specialists representing HCT and the K9 Unit of the Federal Customs Authority.

The three-phase study, conducted by a joint scientific team from the two organizations, revealed the high rate of accuracy of dogs from the Customs’ K9 Unit in detecting Coronavirus-infected patients, from a sample of 1,000 participants at COVID-19 screening centers, within two seconds. The final results showed a 98% correlation between the PCR test results and the detections by the Customs’ K9 dogs.

HE Ali Saeed Mattar Al Nayadi, Commissioner of Customs and Chairman of the Federal Customs Authority, said the success of the scientific joint study reflects the Authority’s keenness to play an effective role in the protection of society and the enhancement of security and stability. 

His Excellency added the study also highlighted the Authority’s aim to implement the UAE leadership’s directives in confronting the effects and implications during the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with the UAE Vision 2021 and UAE Centennial 2071, the aim of which is to establish a safe and prosperous society on the medical, social and economic fronts.

He said this international scientific achievement reinforces the pioneering role of the UAE in addressing the COVID-19 crisis and its ability to deploy all its scientific, executive and human resources and capabilities to protect society and ensure a safer future in preparation for the next 50 years. He stressed that this achievement will pave the way for future use of K9 sniffer dogs in addressing the risks and effects of natural and health disasters; and in detecting viruses, narcotics and hazardous materials.

He pointed out that using K9 sniffer dogs to detect the Coronavirus will save effort and time and reduce the pressure for frontline heroes, such as medical cadre and hospitals by 98%, in addition to ensuring budget cost-effectiveness by saving millions of dirhams that can otherwise be used in vital sectors, such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, and security.

He praised HCT as a unique model of collaboration between educational institutions, and various executive and regulatory bodies in the UAE, which reflects the innovation culture embedded in the UAE’s educational institutions. 

He further praised the efficient performance of the K9 Unit of the Federal Customs Authority, led by Abdul Salam Al Shamsi, Director of the K9 Unit, and supervised by Ahmed Abdulla Bin Lahej, Managing Director of Customs Affairs Sector, for the constructive cooperation with the HCT team, in order to achieve this scientific achievement, despite the dangers of the spread of coronavirus during training and study.

Dr. Abdullatif Al Shamsi, HCT President & CEO, congratulated the scientific team of experts, researchers, and specialists conducting the study, headed by Prof. Mohammed Hag Ali. He further praised the cooperation between the HCT, the Federal Customs Authority, and the Customs K9 Unit.  “The study was conducted in three phases and confirmed the high accuracy of customs K9 sniffer dogs in diagnosing and detecting COVID-19 patients within two seconds,” he said.

He said this collaboration highlighted the importance of this applied scientific study, which was based on international methods and criteria. “It will support the UAE’s endeavors in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the protection of individuals and society by taking preventive measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, and also by providing scientific studies and effective solutions in support of global efforts,” Dr. Al Shamsi said.

He said the first phase of the research included training of the sniffer dogs by the Federal Customs Authority’s K9 Unit for high speed sampling from the armpits of presumed cases. The training was performed on over 500 samples based on international practices. During the second phase, or K9 test, samples were sniffed out by the dogs without coming in contact with the people, followed by a PCR test on the same participants. The third phase included comparison of results between the dogs’ sniffing within two seconds and the PCR results performed in medical laboratories.

Dr Al Shamsi added that the statistical analysis of the study findings proved the high accuracy of Customs K9 sniffer dogs in diagnosing and detecting COVID-19 patients within two seconds. “More than 98% of the samples that did not contain the virus were disqualified, which meant that PCR tests were performed for only 2% of the screening center visitors. This key scientific achievement will save efforts and funds and reduce the pressure of the medical cadre and screening center visitors,” he said.   

Dr. Al Shamsi noted that successful collaboration with the Federal Customs Authority reflected HCT’s applied research competencies, which has been given top priority over the past few years, particularly due to the high interest in examining and solving real-life problems and challenges. 

The study will be proposed for publication in a renowned international peer-reviewed scientific periodical.


About HCT

Founded in 1988, the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) is the UAE’s largest applied higher educational institution, gaining a well-respected reputation for innovative education practices and job-focused experiential learning.

Over 20,000 students attend 16 modern, technology-oriented men’s and women’s campuses throughout the UAE. HCT offers over 70 academic programs in Applied Media, Business, Computer Information Science, Education, Engineering Technology & Science and Health Sciences.

These programs are all designed in consultation with business and industry leaders, and incorporate principles of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to ensure HCT students’ skills are up-to-date and to the highest standards. The HCT courses are a hybrid blend of innovative, technology-driven academic studies and work-relevant programs, ensuring that HCT graduates have the necessary 21st century skills to make positive and lasting contributions to society in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The HCT 4.0 strategic plan, which is strongly aligned to the goals of the National Employment Strategy 2031, was launched in March 2019 with the theme of Employability and Beyond, and consists of three pillars – “Technical Leaders”, “No Emirati Left Behind” and “Graduate Companies”. HCT 4.0 will equip UAE’s National workforce with future skills required in the labor market, so as to meet national goals. It will also empower graduates and employees to be familiar with technological updates and enhance their skills, so as to keep pace with accelerating job changes dictated by the 4th Industrial Revolution and the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence skills.

HCT is a vital contributor to the national agendas, including providing education opportunities to every male and female Emirati and also being announced as a free zone, under the UAE’s Fifty Year Charter”, which stipulates that UAE public and private universities will be announced as free zones that allow students to carry out business and creative activities. In addition, the HCT is prominent in its role as a federal institution by promoting applied research opportunities to faculty and students.

The HCT has also embraced a global perspective on applied education by establishing the Global Applied Education Network (GAEN), which sees it partner with global educational institutions.