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UAE takes lead in air taxi transport as RAK spells out plans for services after Abu Dhabi and Dubai

UAE takes lead in air taxi transport as RAK spells out plans for services after Abu Dhabi and Dubai
7 May 2024 19:30

MAYS IBRAHIM (DUBAI)

The UAE is taking the lead in the global race for air taxi services with another emirate planning for a 2027 launch.

After Abu Dhabi and Dubai introduced their plans for the service earlier this year, Ras Al Khaimah on Tuesday announced its plans for vertical lift-off vehicles at the Arabian Travel Market 2024, currently being held in Dubai.

Ras Al Khaimah set the stage for the development of an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) air taxi ecosystem, when a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Ras Al Khaimah Transport Authority (RAKTA), Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), and Skyports Infrastructure (Skyports). Vertiports for the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles will be built in key attractions across Ras Al Khaimah under an agreement signed at the event.

These zero-emissions air taxis will link Ras Al Khaimah's most popular areas and attractions, including Al Marjan Island, Al Hamra, and Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest peak.

Officials said tourists and residents will have quicker access to areas in the emirate with the launch of these services, which are also environment-friendly. For example, travelling from Al Marjan Island to Jebel Jais takes approximately 70 minutes by car. The launch of air taxi services will cut the journey time to less than 20 minutes.

The initiative supports Ras Al Khaimah's goal of attracting 3.5 million visitors annually by 2030, while promoting environmental stewardship. 

“By introducing electric air mobility, we're not just connecting tourists to our attractions, we're forging a sustainable path forward for our Emirate,” said Esmaeel Hasan Al Blooshi, Director General of Ras Al Khaimah Transport Authority.

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, meanwhile, said this mode of transport will usher in a new paradigm of sustainable travel. “It will not only enhance accessibility to Ras Al Khaimah’s attractions but also significantly reduce our carbon footprint,” said Raki Phillips, CEO of the authority.

Speaking with Aletihad following the announcement, Phillips noted that this project is expected to be a major driver of tourism in Ras Al Khaimah.

“Mobility, and especially sustainable mobility, is something that we believe will be the future of travel,” he said. 

The UAE has always been a frontrunner in the adoption of cutting edge technology, which is something that Ras Al Khaimah mirrors, especially when it comes to tourism, noted Phillips.

He also stressed that sustainability is a “key anchor” in RAKTDA’s work, adding that Ras Al Khaimah today stands as the first silver certified sustainable destination in the region.

Duncan Walker, CEO and founder of Skyports, explained that his company will build and operate the vertiports from which these taxis will take off and land. said it is keen eager to join forces with Ras Al Khaimah to launch electric air taxi services in the Emirate.

“We look forward to contributing our expertise to realise Ras Al Khaimah’s ambitious transport and tourism goals,” he said.

Speaking with Aletihad, Daniel O’Neill, Skyports’ Regional Manager for the Middle East, emphasised the nascent stage of the air taxi and the air mobility industry. 

He said that he anticipates the introduction of electric aircrafts to the market within the next two years, with a gradual increase in production during that time. This surge in production is crucial for achieving sustainability goals and reducing emissions, particularly for long-distance travel, said O’Neill. 

He also highlighted plans to expand the project in Ras al Khaimah, citing its potential for various tourism opportunities. O’Neill envisions air taxis offering new experiences beyond tourism, indicating potential evolution into other use cases in the future.

Ras Al Khaimah’s development comes after Archer Aviation signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago to launch its electric air taxi services by 2025.

“Abu Dhabi is leading the way in accelerating the launch of electric air taxis globally, and ADIO is proud to partner with Archer as one of the world’s most innovative companies. We are excited to support Archer toward establishing its international headquarters in Abu Dhabi, and to develop a comprehensive investment framework that will accelerate its progress towards manufacturing and operating its Midnight aircraft in the UAE,” said Badr Al-Olama, Director General of Abu Dhabi Investment Office.

CEO of Archer, Adam Goldstein, added that Abu Dhabi’s support has helped in the transformation of urban transportation in the Emirate and across the globe.

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority and Joby Aviation also plan to launch air taxi services in the Emirate by early 2026.

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