Experts say drones can slash delivery costs as Dubai plans revealed

Delivery drones likely to complement air taxis as traffic takes to the skies

Drones could be set to transform the delivery industry in Dubai, according to experts. Dubai Media Office
Powered by automated translation

Drone deliveries that are cheaper and 20 times more efficient than land vehicles could complement an air taxi service poised for Dubai in 2026, experts have said.

Innovators discussed the merits of transforming deliveries from road to air at the World Governments Summit in Dubai, as an effective method of reducing city traffic and cutting pollution.

What's happened over the last 10 years has been a real evolution in drone systems and how you integrate with the retailer
Adam Grosser, venture capitalist

It also emerged that Dubai is due to launch production of components of the new Joby Aviation air taxis, as the California-based aerospace company looks to begin running UAE services.

Ahmed Bahrozyan, chief executive of the Public Transport Agency of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said the first six air taxis destined for UAE skies will be US-built, but the UAE could take up future manufacturing of the vehicles.

“The contractual agreement between us and Joby Aviation allows us and them to explore potentially moving parts of the manufacturing process here into the UAE,” Mr Bahrozyan told the Arabian Radio Network.

“The range of the vehicle allows it to potentially do intercity trips as well, so maybe in the future we can potentially also make trips to other emirates.

“Eventually the aim is that Joby has a strategy to move towards autonomy, so there's a vision to have this become an autonomous taxi in the future.”

On the sidelines of the World Government Summit in Dubai, it was announced vertiport infrastructure for the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) industry would be developed by Skyports.

A partnership between the RTA, Skyports and Joby Aviation will see air taxis take to the skies in 2026.

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

Rapid journey times

A typical journey from DXB to Palm Jumeirah is expected to take 10 minutes by air taxi compared with 45 minutes by car.

JoeBen Bevirt, American entrepreneur and founder and chief executive of Joby Aviation, said air taxis have been designed to cut noise pollution and become widely accessible.

“We looked at both the absolute noise level, but also the quality of the sound,” he said.

“We wanted something that didn't have the impulsive nature of a helicopter, so we've done a lot of work on the design of the propellers.

“It is not just a product, but something that will be widely accessible – that was part of the thesis in designing an air taxi that is 20 times as productive as the car on the ground.”

Aviation experts said drone deliveries had transformed access to medical supplies in hard-to-reach areas of Africa, with a similar model holding the potential to be implemented in the UAE.

In Rwanda, ZipLine drone operators slashed delivery times of critical supplies to medical facilities from eight hours by road in the wet season, to just 30 minutes.

Adam Grosser, chairman of UP Partners, an early-stage venture capital fund, said the success was an example of how day-to-day deliveries could also be revolutionised.

“What's happened over the last 10 years has been a real evolution in drone systems and how you integrate with the retailer,” Mr Grosser said in the Soaring Innovations forum at WGS.

“Consumer acceptance is public acceptance, this is a big part of making this successful."

Mr Grosser said common concerns among the public are that drones will fly close to houses, invade privacy and cause noise and disruption.

"But I can tell you now from having done hundreds of thousands of deliveries in a variety of locations that transit speeds are between 70-90mph, and that the convenience outweighs most people's concerns," he said.

“If you think about embedded costs of (road) delivery, you have the depreciation of the vehicle, insurance, fuel and a human being – so it costs around $12 or $13 if you're really good.

“Drones are already below that (cost) and will trend dramatically lower as the systems scale.”

Updated: February 12, 2024, 3:11 PM