Saudi Arabia to use flying taxis in AlUla and Neom by 2026

A Neom-Volocopter venture successfully tested flying taxis last year

The flying taxi will be used in new projects in Saudi Arabia, such as Neom and AlUla, and for Hajj pilgrims. Photo: Saudi Future
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Flying taxis are expected to be used in Saudi Arabia's major tourist sites and developments in the next years as the kingdom presses forward with its modernisation plans.

The flying taxi will enter the market by 2026, and will be used in major protects such as the futuristic city of Neom and the historic tourist site AlUla, Saudia Airlines announced on Monday.

"We are very close to achieving our goals. We have successfully done the tests in Neom," a source from the aviation ministry told The National.

Volocopter will be the sole operator of the first public transit routes for the residents of Neom.

The plan for Neom envisages residents living in communities without cars, with public transport and autonomous vehicles the main forms of travel.

Flying taxis will be one form of transport available, according to Neom's plans.

"That includes high-speed public transit, shared electric and autonomous mobility, but also electric urban air mobility – electric vertical take off and landing aircraft – that can take people and connect them to this wonderful environment that we have in Neom, greatly reducing the need for roads and surface mobility," Florian Lennert, head of mobility at Neom, said in an official statement.

In the race for air mobility, Saudi Arabia is working to meet the sustainable goals listed under the kingdom's Vision 2030 development plan.

The kingdom aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060 by reducing carbon emissions, investing in new energy sources, and developing a carbon capture and storage programme.

French engineering and consulting firm Setec Group is also working on sustainable urban air mobility in the kingdom and is one of many French companies working in AlUla.

The development of AlUla is part of Vision 2030, which aims to bolster its position as a major international destination for culture and tourism.

In 2021, Neom and German company Volocopter established a joint venture to scale advanced air mobility.

They successfully tested the flying taxis last year.

Volocopter aircraft will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, generated by solar and wind energy sources.

“The successful test flight of a Volocopter eVTOL is a tangible example of Neom as a global accelerator and incubator of solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges," Nadhmi Al Nasr, chief executive of Neom, said in a statement:

"Driving the development of smart, sustainable and safe mobility systems will improve livability and connectivity in cities around the world and reduce carbon emissions, creating a cleaner future for all.”

Volocopter expects to obtain certification of its VoloCity air taxi in 2024, Neom officials said.

Flying taxis for Hajj

Saudi Arabia plans to launch air taxis to take Hajj and Umrah pilgrims from King Abdulaziz airport in Jeddah to hotels in Makkah, state media announced on Saturday.

The transfer of pilgrims "will be carried out with maximum speed and highest quality", the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The logistics will be managed by Saudia, the kingdom's national airline.

Last year, Saleh Al Jasser, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Transport, said flying taxis would be tested during Hajj in the coming years.

The taxis will operate from Jeddah airport to the pilgrims' hotels in Makkah directly at a premium fee, not yet disclosed by officials.

Last year, Saudi Arabia witnessed a return to pre-Covid Hajj figures with almost 2 million Hajj pilgrims who performed the ritual in 2023.

According to Tawfiq Al Rabiah, Minister of Hajj and Umrah, the numbers of Umrah pilgrims reached a record 13.5 million last year.

Updated: January 16, 2024, 3:18 AM