Dubai’s RTA signs agreement to launch air taxi services by 2026

Journey from Dubai Airport to the Palm Jumeirah is expected to be cut from 45 minutes to 10 minutes

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Dubai aims to have air taxis in the city in the next two years that are expected to reduce travel time significantly, as the emirate seeks to reduce urban traffic congestion.

UK-based Skyports Infrastructure has signed an agreement with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority and all-electric aircraft company Joby Aviation to launch passenger air taxi services in the emirate by 2026.

Under the agreement, the authority will oversee the air mobility services, with Joby given the exclusive right to operate air taxis in Dubai for six years.

Skyports was granted exclusive rights to design, construct and operate a network of vertiports - launch and landing areas for the air taxis.

With the agreement, Dubai will become the first location in the world with a commercial, citywide electric air taxi service, Skyports said on Sunday.

Flights between Skyports’ vertiports are expected to reduce journey times significantly, the company said.

The initial network will include four vertiports located by Dubai International Airport, the Palm Jumeirah, Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina.

A journey from the airport to the Palm Jumeirah is expected to take 10 minutes by air taxi, compared with 45 minutes by car.

The Joby Aviation S4 aircraft, which has a top speed of 321kph, will be able to accommodate the pilot and four passengers. It has six propellers and four battery packs, allowing it to travel a maximum distance of 161km.

The craft are quieter than helicopters, while their ability to take off and land vertically reduces the amount of space needed to for the vertiports.

“The Dubai air taxi initiative is part of the RTA’s efforts to embrace future transportation technologies and enable fast, safe, and convenient travel to key city spots,” said Mattar Al Tayer, director general and chairman of the authority.

Joby displayed the aircraft at the World Governments Summit, the first time the air taxi was seen in the region.

“We’re looking forward to delivering an incredible experience for residents and visitors to Dubai as early as 2025 and we’re excited to be laying the groundwork for the expansion of our service across the wider UAE,” said JoeBen Bevirt, chief executive and founder of Joby Aviation.

Joby has established a local operating entity in Dubai to support the development of its operations and intends to recruit locally for the majority of its operational team.

Skyports will operate the vertiports to provide take-off and landing infrastructure in key Dubai locations.

“Today marks a significant step towards the launch of commercial air taxi services in Dubai. The industry has never been closer to making it a reality,” said Duncan Walker, founder and chief executive of Skyports.

“The strategic positioning of our vertiports in key locations across Dubai will enhance connectivity and provide a faster travel option for residents and visitors.”

The RTA and Skyports unveiled a preliminary design concept for a vertiport near Dubai International Airport.

The design features a three-floor parking structure, with a vertiport terminal on the top deck. The vertiport is to be connected to the Emirates Metro station.

Watch: Air taxis to take over Dubai skies in three years

Watch: Air taxis to take over Dubai skies in three years

Dubai has been investing in road infrastructure and new modes of transport to reduce traffic congestion, which costs the emirate billions of dirhams in lost working hours every year.

Skyports on Sunday said that detailed studies had been completed at the four locations and that architectural design had started for the first phase of development.

The vertiport certification and approval process has begun with the General Civil Aviation Authority, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Dubai Air Navigation Services, and other critical government stakeholders, the company said.

Consultancy McKinsey predicts the global electric aircraft market will be worth around $17.8 billion by 2028, with demand for all-electric vehicles set to grow sixfold by 2030 with about 40 million units sold a year.

Updated: February 12, 2024, 7:57 AM