Amsterdam Drone Week 24 panel spotlights regional growth in air mobility services

Amsterdam Drone Week Industry Update explored rapid development pf Air Mobility Services in the Middle East region in a session moderated by Munish Khurana with four experts from Oman, the UAE, Turkey and Sweden. The session spotlighted progress in Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Sweden ahead of Amsterdam Drone Week which will take place in Amsterdam 16-18 April 2024.


Malik Alnabhani is COO and cofounder of the Omani tech-start-up Serb. Serb last year introduced a UTM system within civil aviation to enable safe drone flights. According to Al Nabhani, the startup emerged due to an urgent need to manage drone traffic amid legislative restrictions and increased drone use demand. Designed in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority, their app provides a map showcasing the locations where flying drones is permissible. Additionally, it allows users to acquire flying licences from the Authority within the application. The system offers its services to three types of users: recreational, commercial and enterprise.

Malik Alnabhani said: “Enterprises in various fields have adopted the use of drones within recent years. For example gas and oil companies use them to detect and monitor leaks, while telecommunication companies use them for tower inspections. Furthermore, our system will allow for better air-traffic coordination.” He explained that the app will allow for better communication between all forms of aircrafts, while simultaneously prioritising important missions within the vicinity. “Our UTM is able to integrate with any physical infrastructure that already exist, like radars or anti-drone or detection systems. Our commitment goes beyond adopting new technologies of UTM, but it’s also about reshaping the future of advanced air mobility in Oman and the region.”

United Arab Emirates

The second panelist was Omran Malek, Assistant Manager Emerging Technologies at the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Malek explained how the development of advanced air mobility in the UAE started only in 2017 when the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of an air taxi project. Since then the GCAA worked hard to establish rules and regulations in the Emirates. The United Arab Emirates were the first country in the world to legislate drone operations. In the past years, Malek has overseen regulatory harmonization with other countries, but he is just as busy getting drone manufacturers to certify their products according to his agency’s guidelines.


Mesut Yilmaz is the eVTOL Program Director at Gözen Holding in Istanbul, Turkey. As the third panelist he explained that Gözen is not only the main Air Service Provider in Turkey but is also an organization with a wide ranging portfolio. It’s involved both on the airline side, but also on the airline training centers, travel agencies and so on. It gives the company access to a lot of the ecosystem of Advanced Air Mobility. And while located in Turkey, Gözen also acts as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. They are planning to operate at least 100 eVTOLS in the Bosphorus area. “For short distance flights, eVTOLs are the future of aviation”, Yilmaz stated. “Electrification is key. Not just from the point of view of tourism, but actually also from reducing the carbon dioxide emissions and contributing to the net zero goal that we all have.”


The last panelist who introduced himself was Kim Silander, founder of the Swedish company KookieJar. KookieJar draws upon cutting-edge expertise in both ground and air infrastructure. Kim Silander: “Together with key partners we provide a unique combination to the global air mobility ecosystem. The KookieJar vertiport network is designed to be a smart, flexible, and adaptable solution in moving more people and goods sustainably and efficiently.”

Silander explained how the rapid growth of cities puts a strain on ground infrastructure, and more congested traffic poses a threat to the climate. At the same time, suburbs and rural areas risks getting put on the peripheral wayside of society, further increasing the gap between people. “The lower air space is a non-utilized resource with the capability to solve societal obstacles. That’s where our vertiports come into place.”


Moderator Munish Khurana asked the four panelists what the main catalysts for starting off advanced air mobility in their countries is. Malik Alnabhani responded that especially the oil and gas industry in Oman is using drones for inspections. And drones are also used in a nationwide plan to grow one million palm trees in the desert.

Omran Malek answered that in Dubai there is a plan to fly air taxis as soon as 2026 and Mesut Yilmaz replied that the demand in Turkey is actually building. And once the certification takes place in 2026 one would expect that’s the time that also things to pick up.

Kim Silander works in both Europe and the Middle East and indicated where the differences between both regions are: “The big difference is that in Europe we work with a timeline, not a deadline. While some countries in the Middle East aim for 2026 for the first flights, we in Europe are much slower. We take it step by step.”

After a short discussion about the costs of air mobility and the moment when investors can actually make a business case of flying drones for commercial reasons, Munish Khurana summarised: “Advanced air mobility is going to come, whether you like it or not. Just get ready for it. Try and link the advanced air mobility ecosystem with an existing industry. Then take off will come much faster.”

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