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Brazilian cargo drone maker expands operations to Dubai

Tupan's drone has a range of 1,000km Tupan
Tupan's drone has a range of 1,000km
  • Tupan’s cargo drones have a range of 1,000km
  • They aim to help increase intra-regional Gulf trade
  • UAE due to publish drone port rules this month

Tupan, a Brazilian cargo and military drone manufacturer, is setting up operations in Dubai, in a bid to help speed up e-commerce deliveries and boost cross-border trade, the company’s CEO told AGBI.

The UAE’s civil aviation authority in December published what it said were the world’s first regulations for vertiports to govern the use of electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, known as VTOL.

The draft rules are under consultation with the aviation sector and a final version will be published by the end of March. 

“With Dubai taking the lead as the world’s aviation capital, the UAE is poised to adopt Advanced Air Mobility regulations far sooner than other regions across the world,” Alberto Pereira, chief executive of Sao Paulo-based Tupan, told AGBI. 

Tupan’s latest drone is known as a high-speed, vertical/short take-off and landing (HSVSTOL) aircraft, which means it ascends like a helicopter and does not require a runway.

The drone has a range of 1,000 km, offering “a safe, cost-effective, and long-range solution” to transport goods, said Pereira. 

“We are about transport between cities and countries, not intra-city air transport. We are not here to produce air taxis but to create a new market for air cargo platforms,” he said. 

“The unprecedented growth of e-commerce and cross-border trade over recent years has called for new inventive air freight solutions to meet the rising demand for reliable, safe and cost-effective cargo transport services.”

Tupan’s introduction to the Gulf market comes as new research found that intra-regional exports account for only 2.9 percent of total gross domestic product in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan (Menap) region. 

This compares to a global average of 7.9 percent, and 22 percent across the EU, Norway, Switzerland and the UK, according to the inaugural Menap Economic Integration Barometer, developed by Dubai-based retail and property conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim in partnership with McKinsey Global Institute.

“Life’s ever-increasing pace has driven a fundamental shift in customers’ expectations, and now they want their products to be handed to them immediately,” said Pereira. 

“This, in turn, has changed the frequency at which products are delivered. Thus, there is a need for new vehicles.”

The company is in the process of getting the necessary permits from the UAE authorities, he said. 

Another Tupan drone model with propellers is also suitable for agriculture, offering low-speed, precisely measured flights over farmland. As well as cargo, Tupan’s drones have military uses including as combat vehicles, perform surveillance and to support armed forces. 

Pereira declined to reveal the likely price tag for his company’s aircraft but said similar drones sold for $1.5 million to $4.5 million. 

His company has partnered with US environmental equity fund ForestAu Green to launch operations in the UAE, although the duo did not provide details on how they would work together. 

ForestAu Green is the issuer of the Tupan Token, which it claims promotes the bioeconomy of the Amazon. “Tupan” is the word for god in some indigenous South American languages.