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The UAE inches closer to launching Air Taxis, safety remains a concern

From a UAE standpoint, Autonomous Aerial Taxi Services (AATS) is a key use case with Dubai among the cities working towards a successful launch

The UAE has a vision to make 25% of all transportation trips SMART and driverless by 2030  eVTOL technology is expected to hit $2 billion in 2021 Research revealed 3 out of 4 people had a major concern with safety

Within the mobility sector, many passengers now favor transport modes perceived as safer and more hygienic and have shifted their usage accordingly. Arthur D. Little (ADL), a leading management consultancy firm that released other findings in their new Autonomous Mobility Journal, the series’ third edition.

The journal comprises exclusive coverage of the latest autonomous mobility developments worldwide, shedding light on industry dynamics, prominent use cases, and the vitality for mobility solution providers and governments to anticipate future trends.

Joseph Salem, partner and travel & transport practice lead at Arthur D. Little Middle East, said innovative projects such as the UAE’s aerial taxi “can be leveraged to drive innovation towards more sustainable, resilient and human-centric urban mobility systems.”

From a UAE standpoint, Autonomous Aerial Taxi Services (AATS) is a key use case featured and where passengers are transported in an autonomous electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, with Dubai among the cities working towards a successful launch.  

While regulation remains a sizeable air mobility implementation barrier, Salem said the UAE has already released a Notice of Proposed Amendments (NPA) for eVTOL aircraft operations and regulations for aircraft testing developed, with a responsive regulatory environment now apparent.  

The UAE has a vision to make 25% of all transportation trips SMART and driverless by 2030.

Aqeel Ahmed Al Zarouni, Acting Director of the Policy, Regulation, and Planning Department, country’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), shared insights about the UAE’s aviation sector and the deployment of urban air mobility (UAM).

He said: “Before 2017, we did not have a regulation in place to enable UAM, so we accommodated a pilot project with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) of Dubai with a restricted approval for a trial. In July 2019, we came up with a reasonable approach to maintain safety via the launch of our UAM regulation.”

“This regulation is the first of its kind, and it covers operational, continued airworthiness, vertiport, and security requirements. In the years since, we have completed several achievements to strengthen the aviation industry within the UAE and its upper space… to ensure harmonization of the regulatory framework for the UAM sector.”

UAM growth

 eVTOL technology is expected to hit $2 billion in 2021 with several advanced cities in the world, including Dubai, setting sight on launching air taxi services by next year.

Around $900 million was invested in the urban air mobility market in the first 6 months of 2020, but two-thirds of senior private equity and venture capital professionals expect over $2 bn will be invested in the sector this year. Some 41% predict the figure will be over $3 bn, and 16% think it will be more than $4 bn, according to research commissioned by Horizon Aircraft.

In August 2020, RTA signed an agreement with Dubai Air Navigation Services to map out sky lanes for flying taxis and drones across the city.

Brandon Robinson, CEO and co-founder of Horizon Aircraft, said the eVTOL market is predicted to enjoy rapid growth over the next few years, saying that by 2050, there could be 160,000 commercial air taxis or more operating around the world, generating over $90 bn a year in revenues.

The research also reveals that over the next 3 years, 62% of private equity and venture capital professionals expect to see SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies) increasingly buying, investing, or raising funds for eVTOL companies through an initial public offering (IPO) for the purpose of acquiring an existing company.

In 2020, the global eVTOL Aircraft market size was $4.53 bn and it is expected to reach $9.73 bn by the end of 2027, with an annual growth rate of 11% during 2021-2027. Over 150 companies are developing air taxi projects.  

The Horizon Aircraft research revealed 3 out of 4 people had a major concern with safety and nearly 70% said they needed reassurance about pilot training.

Martin Warner, CEO and founder of air mobility company Autonomous Flights, said: “Morgan Stanley in 2018 called eVTOLs the next big market and could be valued at around $1.5 trillion by 2040.”  

According to Starburst Accelerator CEO Francois Chopard, eVTOLs will be operational within the next ten years.

“The main players are still targeting 2025 for the first commercial flights, Volocopter is allowed to fly in certain parts of Germany, and Joby is supposed to be certified soon by the FAA,” he says.