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Saudi Arabia Unveils First Self-Driving Air Taxi For Hajj Pilgrims
Saudi Arabia Unveils First Self-Driving Air Taxi For Hajj Pilgrims

Saudi Arabia has launched trials of self-driving air taxis during Hajj 2024, making it the world’s first such service licensed by a civil aviation authority. 

The electric air taxis, launched by the Transport General Authority, aim to enhance pilgrim transport between Makkah and Madinah, facilitate emergency travel, and provide logistics services.

The initiative aligns with Saudi Vision 2030 goals to promote sustainable, AI powered transport solutions in the Kingdom.

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Launch Event of Air Taxis

Image Credit GACA

The launch event of the air taxis trials was attended by esteemed dignitaries such as Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), and Rumaih Al-Rumaih, Deputy Minister of Transport and Logistics Services. 

The world witnessed a captivating spectacle of the vertical takeoff of self-driving air taxis. This awe-inspiring display was a powerful symbol of Saudi Arabia’s dedication to pioneering innovative, environmentally friendly transportation models powered by artificial intelligence applications.

Image Credit GACA

Minister Al-Jasser underscored the Kingdom’s unwavering commitment to exploring and implementing the latest self-driving air taxis technologies, stating, 

“We are following up on all the technologies available to be among the first countries to benefit from these services, particularly in serving Hajj pilgrims.”

Unveiling the First Trial

Image Credit GACA

On Wednesday, the inaugural trial of the self-driving air taxi service took place in Makkah, marking a historic moment in the realm of advanced air mobility. 

Eng. Saleh Al-Jasser, the Minister of Transport and Logistics Services and Chairman of the Board of Directors of GACA, presided over the event, witnessing the vertical take-off of the electric air taxi.

Image Credit EHang

The trial featured the EH216-S eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft, a pilotless aerial vehicle capable of transporting two passengers. Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, the President of GACA, was also present during this momentous occasion.

Revolutionizing Pilgrims’ Experience

Image Credit EHang

The electric, autonomous aerial taxis have been meticulously designed to revolutionize the transportation experience for pilgrims, facilitating seamless travel between sacred sites. 

This visionary service promises to alleviate congestion and ensures swift responses to medical emergencies and efficient delivery of essential supplies and goods.

Enhancing Emergency Response

Image Credit EHang

The self-driving air taxis service promises to elevate the pilgrim experience, offering a seamless and efficient mode of transportation across holy sites. 

Moreover, its rapid response capabilities ensure prompt medical assistance and supply delivery during emergencies, underscoring the Kingdom’s commitment to prioritizing the well-being and safety of its visitors.

Fostering Innovative Collaboration 

Image Credit EHang

The self-driving air taxis initiative is collaborative, bringing together stakeholders from various sectors to foster innovation and pave the way for future transportation solutions. 

By providing experimental environments and developing legislation that supports the employment of modern technologies, Saudi Arabia is creating a rich ground for entrepreneurs, researchers, and industry leaders to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Improving Accessibility and Inclusivity

Image Credit GACA

Beyond its technological marvels, the self-driving air taxi service holds the potential to enhance accessibility and inclusivity for pilgrims of diverse backgrounds and abilities. 

By offering a convenient and efficient mode of transportation, this initiative aims to ensure that the sacred journey is accessible to all, regardless of physical limitations or mobility challenges.

Advancing Sustainable Development Goals

Image Credit UN

Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainable transportation aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) and Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). 

By investing in self-driving air taxis and eco-friendly transport solutions, the Kingdom actively contributes to the global effort to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive industrialization, and foster sustainable urbanization.

Supporting International Collaboration

Image Credit NEOM

The self-driving air taxis initiative has garnered international attention and collaboration, with Saudi Arabia partnering with renowned firms like Volocopter to leverage their expertise in eVTOL technology. 

This cross-border cooperation accelerates innovation and promotes knowledge-sharing and best practices, further solidifying Saudi Arabia’s position as a global leader in sustainable transportation.

A Global Leader in Aerial Tech

Image Credit EHang

Saudi Arabia’s launch of self-driving air taxis during the Hajj season of 2024 marks a historic milestone in transportation and technological innovation. This groundbreaking initiative enhances the pilgrim experience and propels the Kingdom to a future defined by sustainable, intelligent mobility solutions. 

As the world watches in amazement, Saudi Arabia solidifies its position as a global leader in embracing cutting-edge technologies while preserving its rich cultural heritage.

More Saudi Moves into eVTOL Tech

PIF’s Partnership with Bristow

Image Credit Bristow Group Inc

The Helicopter Company, supported by PIF, has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bristow Arabia Aircraft & Maintenance Services to collaborate on innovative air mobility projects in Saudi Arabia. 

The primary goal of this partnership is to revolutionize the vertical aviation industry, specifically through the implementation of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technology, and to expand the aviation ecosystem in Saudi Arabia. 

With a fleet of 47 aircraft, the Helicopter Company is the leading commercial helicopter operator in Saudi Arabia, providing services such as Emergency Medical Services, private charters, and tourism.

Saudia Flying Taxi

Image Credit Lilium

Saudi Arabian Airlines plans to transform the Hajj travel experience by implementing Flying taxi to ferry pilgrims from Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport to Makkah hotels during the Hajj and Umrah seasons. 

Saudia, Saudi Arabian Airlines, has committed to acquiring 100 Lilium aircraft, electric vertical take-off, and landing jets manufactured in Germany. 

These planes provide a solution with minimal carbon emissions and hcantransport four to six passengers over a distance of 250 km. The introduction of this new service aims to cater to high-end guests seeking luxurious travel experiences.

Flynas and Eve Air Mobility eVTOL Flights

Image Credit Flynas

Flynas and Eve Air Mobility partnered to introduce eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) flights in Riyadh and Jeddah by 2026. 

It was announced that an agreement had been reached between the two companies in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to investigate the potential of eVTOL flights in both cities. 

This initiative aims to bolster Saudi Arabia’s emerging aviation sector and contribute to achieving Vision 2030’s sustainability objectives.

Keep Reading: The PIF’s Helicopter and Jet Company Partners with Bristow For Advanced Air Mobility In Saudi Arabia

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