Dubai has always believed in proactively preparing for the future and setting in place strategies to address forthcoming challenges. Sustainability is one of the dominant themes underpinning every aspect of development in the emirate today, from urban planning to utilities to public transport. It is no surprise then that Dubai has been among the first cities in the world to pilot air taxis and chart their future growth with visionary planning and infrastructure development.
Aerial taxis are expected to feature prominently in discussions on sustainable aviation and net zero emission targets at the 2023 edition of the Dubai Airshow. To be held from November 13 to 17 at Dubai World Central (DWC), the 18th edition of the event, being held under the theme ‘The Future of the Aerospace Industry’, will prominently feature the soaring market for advanced aerial mobility (AAM) and urban air mobility (UAM) solutions.
The Dubai Airshow will unveil a dedicated AAM pavilion this year in addition to the aerospace, space, and defence pavilions. Aerial transport solutions ranging from drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), UAMs, and electric vertical take-off and landing aircrafts (eVTOLs) will all be on display. A flying display by eVTOL craft is set to be one of the highlights. The latest edition will also feature an AAM conference, which will see industry thought leaders and experts sharing views and insights on the transformative technologies, regulations, and infrastructure that could provide the launchpad for AAM adoption at scale.
Aerial mobility pioneer
While the deployment of aerial taxis is part of Dubai’s agenda for adopting cutting-edge innovation, the emirate also places high priority on the new technology due to its significant potential for advancing sustainable urban transportation. In the broader aviation industry, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could climb sharply to anywhere between 25 per cent to 30 per cent by 2050 in the absence of credible alternatives given the soaring demand for air travel, predicts a report by Frost & Sullivan titled ‘Sustainable Technologies in Aviation’. By taking cars off the road and reducing traffic congestion, aerial taxis can contribute significantly to addressing environmental challenges. According to some estimates, flying taxis have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent compared to traditional cars.
The AAM market globally is projected to reach $16.8 billion in 2025, expanding significantly to $110 billion by 2035. This translates into a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 21.7 per cent. The Dubai Airshow seeks to provide regional and international players a platform to explore futuristic technologies that are bound to revolutionise air travel.
Dubai, being the trendsetter it is, has been among the first movers in the context of AAM innovation and infrastructure planning. Earlier this year, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced plans to launch air taxis in Dubai in just over three years. The initiative will see vertiports spring up across the city as part of an air mobility infrastructure network designed for the future.
Providing the AAM industry still more impetus, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub (MBRAH) have joined hands to establish the world’s first AAM integrator world centre in Dubai. The development of the world’s first-ever vertiport certification process and strengthening Dubai’s global standing in the AAM sector would also come under the ambit of the project.
As far back as 2017, Dubai conducted a test flight of a driverless flying vehicle that at the time gained instant attention as the world’s first self-flying taxi service set to be introduced by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
Spelling out Dubai’s will to make things happen, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid tweeted during the World Government Summit held in Dubai: “We approved today the design of the new air taxi stations in Dubai, which will start operating within three years.”
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has worked on a conceptual design of aerial taxi vertiports. His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer, Director General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA, explained that the vertiports will feature designated take-off and landing zones in addition to a passenger waiting area and electric charging stations. There will also be required security protocols to comply with the applicable security policies and laws.
“In line with Dubai’s vision for future technologies, the adoption of advanced aerial mobility technologies is a testament to our commitment to transforming urban mobility as well as ushering in a greener future. Under the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, we are investing in a technology-rich future that is sustainable, efficient and interconnected. This is aligned with our broader vision for Dubai, as outlined in the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to transform the city into one of the world’s top three urban economies. The integration of aerial taxis into our urban infrastructure will create a cohesive, multimodal transportation network that demonstrates Dubai’s readiness to embrace new technologies while keeping sustainability and the wellbeing of its residents at the forefront,” His Excellency said.
When ready, the new infrastructure will make Dubai the first city in the world with a fully developed network of vertiports. Capable of achieving top speeds of 300 km/hr and a maximum range of 240 km, the aerial taxis would accommodate four passengers in addition to the pilot.
“Currently we are working with the right investor who is capable of building the infrastructure required for the air mobility industry,” Al Tayer added.
The initial network of vertiports is expected to connect four main areas of Dubai, namely Downtown Dubai, Dubai Marina, Dubai International Airport and Palm Jumeirah. The task of devising a comprehensive framework for introducing aerial taxis has been left to the RTA, which would also identify take-off and landing sites, besides framing protocols for safe and efficient operations.
“The regulatory and safety aspects of aerial taxi operations will be studied at length and a clear framework evolved well in advance to deliver pathbreaking services while ensuring the highest level of public satisfaction,” Al Tayer added.
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