THE RISE OF AIR TAXIS IN THE UAE

In a historic move poised to  revolutionize urban transportation, the  Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO),  in collaboration with the UAE’s General  Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and  Abu Dhabi Mobility (AD Mobility), has  unveiled the UAE’s first operational  vertiport for vertical take-off and  landing aircraft (eVTOLs) at DRIFTx.  The international event showcased  smart, autonomous, and sustainable  urban mobility across air, land, and sea. 

The introduction of the vertiport facility  marks a significant milestone in Abu  Dhabi’s ambitious plan to develop a  state-of-the-art air taxi network by 2026.  This network aims to transform the  emirate’s transportation infrastructure,  enhancing connectivity and positioning  Abu Dhabi as a global leader in advanced  air mobility.

A Visionary Leap in Urban Mobility

The temporary vertiport, constructed in  line with the latest industry standards  and regulations set by the UAE’s GCAA,  provides a glimpse into the future of  urban air transport. It highlights Abu  Dhabi’s commitment to delivering one  of the world’s most advanced eVTOL  sectors. The vertiport’s unveiling  underscores the city’s proactive  approach to integrating cutting-edge  technologies and sustainable solutions  into its urban mobility framework. 

His Excellency Saif Mohammed Al  Suwaidi, Director General of the GCAA,  emphasized the importance of this  collaboration: “Our partnership with  ADIO and AD Mobility underscores our  commitment to fostering innovation  while maintaining the highest levels of  safety and regulatory compliance in the  rapidly evolving field of advanced air  mobility. Events to enhance such visions  play a crucial role in accelerating the  development of advanced air mobility  in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the  UAE. By bringing together industry  experts, innovators, and stakeholders,  such events facilitate invaluable dialogue  and collaboration that propels us toward  a future where smart and sustainable  urban air transportation is a reality.”

The UAE’s pioneering approach  to advanced air mobility is further  exemplified by the GCAA’s initiative in  establishing the world’s first national  regulation on vertiports. This regulation  ensures the availability of safe and  suitable infrastructure to accommodate  eVTOL aircraft, covering design,  operations, and certification provisions  for vertiports on land and at sea. This  bespoke regulatory framework sets a  global benchmark for other regulators,  demonstrating the UAE’s commitment  to innovation and safety in the aviation  sector.

Strategic Collaboration for a Connected  Future

The collaboration between ADIO and  AD Mobility is set to transform Abu  Dhabi’s urban landscape. His Excellency  Abdulla Al Marzouqi, Director General  of Abu Dhabi Mobility, highlighted the  strategic importance of this partnership:  “The collaboration between ADIO and  AD Mobility will see vertiports set up  in strategic locations across Abu Dhabi,  including major business hubs and  tourism destinations. Once complete, the  vertiport network will be a key enabler  of Abu Dhabi’s SAVI cluster. Centred  in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, it provides  state-of-the-art facilities and value-add  services within an enabling regulatory  environment for companies developing  advanced technologies across air, land,  and sea mobility applications. This is an  exciting time for mobility in Abu Dhabi.”

Economic and Technological  Advancements

AD Mobility’s mandate includes  overseeing land transport, aviation, and  maritime activities in addition to driver  and vehicle licensing and permitting  services. This comprehensive approach  solidifies its commitment to shaping  the future of mobility in the region,  harnessing technology, innovation,  and sustainability to accommodate  the emirate’s growing population and  redefine urban living. 

Badr Al-Olama, Director General of  ADIO, emphasized the economic  and technological significance of  the vertiport network: “Abu Dhabi’s  vertiport network will mark a significant  milestone in transport innovation and  the future of mobility.  

Our partnership with AD Mobility  is pivotal for creating robust  infrastructure to make smart and  autonomous vehicles a reality and part  of everyday life, propelling us towards  a more connected and efficient future.  The network will create extensive  commercial opportunities for transport  infrastructure companies, fostering  economic development alongside  technological advancement.”

ADIO engaged with experts in the  advanced air mobility sector during the  inaugural Abu Dhabi Mobility Week,  outlining the commercial opportunities  available to develop the capital’s vertiport  infrastructure network through Abu  Dhabi’s public-private partnership  (PPP) framework. This framework,  which has successfully delivered major  infrastructure projects, will create  new commercial opportunities for  local and international transportation  infrastructure companies. 

SAVI Cluster: A Hub of Innovation

The plans announced by ADIO and AD  Mobility are set to bolster Abu Dhabi’s  Smart and Autonomous Vehicle Industry  (SAVI) cluster. Located in Masdar  City, the SAVI cluster offers state 

of-the-art facilities and value-added  services within an enabling regulatory  environment. It provides access to  academia, sandboxes, R&D labs, testing  and certification facilities, large-scale  workshops, hangars, manufacturing  facilities, and global logistics integration.  This comprehensive ecosystem has  attracted some of the world’s most  innovative eVTOL companies, including  Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation. 

The development of vertiport  infrastructure is a critical component  of this strategy, enabling the  operationalization of air taxis and  integrating them into Abu Dhabi’s  broader urban mobility network. The  SAVI cluster’s resources and facilities  will support the development and  deployment of advanced technologies,  positioning Abu Dhabi as a global hub  for innovation in urban air mobility.

Recent Partnerships

The recent collaboration between  Archer and Falcon Aviation extends  from a memorandum of understanding,  wherein the UAE-based company  provisionally agreed to operate Archer’s  Midnight aircraft. Archer aims to have  the Midnight certified and ready for  service by 2025.  

The partnership is endorsed by the  Abu Dhabi Investment Office, which  is anticipated to make an undisclosed  investment, marking Archer’s first  international venture. Archer will be part  of Abu Dhabi’s Smart and Autonomous  Vehicle Industry cluster. 

Archer’s Chief Commercial Officer,  

Nikhil Goel, highlighted the swift  progress made in the UAE since the  announcement three months ago,  emphasizing the significance of being  the first to unveil plans for operations  between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, along  with vertiport infrastructure at both  ends of the commuter route. 

In a momentous leap towards the  future of transportation, Joby Aviation,  a company dedicated to developing  all-electric aircraft for commercial  passenger service, has set its sights on  the skies of Dubai. A groundbreaking  agreement was inked between Joby and  Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority  (RTA), with the visionary presence of His  Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid  Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime  Minister, and Ruler of Dubai. 

The agreement, an emblem of Dubai’s  commitment to innovation and  sustainability, grants Joby exclusive  rights to operate air taxi services in the  Emirate for six years, positioning Dubai  as a global leader in clean and efficient  air travel. With initial operations slated  as early as 2025 and full-scale launch by  early 2026, this partnership promises to  redefine urban mobility, delivering fast, clean, and quiet air travel powered by  Joby’s revolutionary technology. 

JoeBen Bevirt, the founder and CEO of  Joby Aviation, expressed his excitement  about the partnership, highlighting the  significance of sustainable air travel:  “It is an honor to partner with the  government of Dubai to demonstrate  the value of sustainable air travel to the  world. Today’s landmark agreement  delivers on all three ingredients required  to successfully launch an air taxi service  – a definitive path to operations, well placed infrastructure supported by  dedicated partners, and an aircraft  with the capacity and range to deliver  meaningful journeys.”

Dubai’s commitment to embracing  future transportation technologies was  echoed by His Excellency Mattar Al  Tayer, Director-General, Chairman of  the Board of Executive Directors for  RTA, who sees the air taxi service as a  novel and efficient mobility option for  residents and visitors alike. “This service  will also enhance seamless multimodal  transportation, improving citywide  connectivity, and ensuring a smooth  travel experience for passengers,”  remarked Al Tayer.

In tandem with the agreement with  RTA, Joby also forged a partnership  with Skyports, a leading provider of  vertiport infrastructure, to design, build,  and operate four initial vertiport sites  across Dubai. These strategic locations  include Dubai International Airport  (DXB), Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina,  and Dubai Downtown, strategically  positioned to cater to the diverse travel  needs of residents and tourists. 

With the stage set and the vision clear,  Dubai’s skyward journey begins. As Joby  Aviation, RTA, and Skyports join forces to  revolutionize urban transportation, the  Emirate prepares to soar to new heights,  embracing the future of mobility with  open arms. The countdown to the era of  air taxis in Dubai has begun, promising  a seamless, sustainable, and exhilarating  mode of travel for generations to come.

Volocopter, an early mover in the  UAM sector when it launched in 2011,  recently attracted US$240m in funding.  

Likewise, fellow German start-up Lilium  is merging with the Qell Acquisition Corp  for a valuation price of US$3.3bn. “The  test will start in the fourth quarter of  2017, and the project has been scheduled  to run for five years,” Alexander Zosel,  co-founder of Volocopter, is pleased to  report. Dubai plans to handle 25 % of all  of its passenger travel using autonomous  transportation by as early as 2030.  For the world’s first regular test run  of autonomous air taxis, the emirate  has now asked Volocopter’s experts on  board for additional support. “We are  very grateful and proud that the RTA  has selected us as their partner after  rigorous testing,” said Zosel.

Lilium N.V. (NASDAQ: LILM), developer  of the first all-electric vertical take-off  and landing (eVTOL) jet, has signed  an agreement that appoints ArcosJet  DMCC (“ArcosJet”), a Dubai-based  leader in business aircraft brokerage,  as the exclusive authorized dealer for  private sales of the Lilium Jet in the  United Arab Emirates (UAE), Israel, and  the Republic of Cyprus.  

The agreement includes a commitment  fee payment to Lilium and grants  ArcosJet exclusivity on private sales.  With this agreement, ArcosJet becomes  

Lilium’s first reseller in the Middle East  and its fifth dealer globally. 

UAE Residents Open to eVTOLs,  According to New Survey 78 percent of  residents in the United Arab Emirates  feel that eVTOLs will be able to alleviate  or solve traffic congestion within  the city, according to a new study by  UK-based market research and data  analytics company YouGov. The study,  which surveyed more than 2000  residents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in  November, also found that 65 percent of  respondents agree that traffic is a major  concern in their city, particularly among  working individuals. 

Conclusion 

As Abu Dhabi takes flight with its  first operational vertiport, the city is  setting a new standard for urban air  mobility. The unveiling of the vertiport  in the UAE marks a significant step  towards realizing Abu Dhabi’s vision of  a connected, efficient, and sustainable  transportation network. With the  support of ADIO, AD Mobility, and the  GCAA, Abu Dhabi is well-positioned to  lead the way in advanced air mobility,  creating new opportunities for economic  growth and technological advancement.

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