The first drone to be made in the UAE was unveiled by Abu Dhabi’s defence company, Edge, at the Umex exhibition in the capital on Sunday.
Garmousha, a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone that resembles a helicopter, was designed by Adasi, a subsidiary of Edge, in a deal with the General Headquarters of the UAE Armed Forces.
"We are launching today one of our anchor products as Edge," Faisal Al Bannai, Edge chief executive and managing director, told The National.
The unmanned aircraft is designed to carry payloads of up to 100 kilograms with a range of six hours of flight time and 150 kilometres. The helicopter aims to provide flexibility, allowing militaries to save manned helicopters for critical missions, according to the company. The Garmousha drone can also be used to detect gas pipeline leaks, to survey infrastructure and for search and rescue operations.
Drones are pilotless aircraft that use emerging technologies like computer vision and artificial intelligence to operate and perform tasks specified by humans. But drones can also be ground or sea vehicles that operate autonomously.
Global military spending on drones is expected to reach $98 billion in the next decade, according to a recent report from the Teal Group, an aerospace and defence market analysis firm.
The UAE is aiming to be a leader in the fields of artificial intelligence and developing applications for unmanned systems. The technology is being used across land, sea and air, for the purposes of gathering "media, monitoring, traffic regulation, urban and remote area security and forest fires”, Mohammed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, said in his opening address at Umex on Sunday.
“In the era of the digital economy, it is well known that investment in future technology has become the most important area of investment, making a difference in the future progress and prosperity of countries.”
The Garmousha, named after a kind of falcon, is “one of many” drones “coming down the line” for Edge, according to the chief executive. However, this first one marks a significant milestone as it is equipped with the technology platform upon which all future drones — big or small — will be designed.
Mr Al Bannai, who founded the Abu Dhabi cybersecurity contractor DarkMatter and Axiom telecoms in the 1990s, said the platform “is flexible to accept different kinds of payloads depending on the mission”, whether for military, surveillance or private sector operations.
“We are a country that does not have a population of 100 million. Autonomous capabilities for us is an essential part for us to protect our troops, to protect our army and move them away from harm’s way.”
Edge's Adasi is the official Strategic Partner of Umex 2020, an exhibition and conference to convene experts, academic researchers, government and the private sector in exploring challenges and opportunities that have emerged as a result of artificial intelligence and the fourth Industrial Revolution. Umex is also focused on advancing applications of unmanned systems technologies.