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UAE issues first licence to test electric cargo planes

Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, economy minister and chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority, said the UAE was keen to adopt new air cargo technology WAM
Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, economy minister and chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority, said the UAE was keen to adopt new air cargo technology
  • Shipping giant UPS will run trials of an electric aircraft in the Emirates
  • UAE is keen to support clean energy technology, says economy minister

The UAE has issued its first licence for electric cargo planes as it steps up efforts to support sustainable transport technology.

The Emirati government’s Regulations Lab issued the licence to US shipping giant UPS, to test electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in the UAE.

The agency said in a statement that the licence provides a “strong legislative structure to operate a new generation of cargo aircrafts that use clean energy”.

Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE economy minister and chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority, said: “The UAE is keen to adopt international best practices and advanced technologies in the air cargo industry.

“The application of the electric air cargo system will impact this sector positively, in accordance with the best standards of sustainability.”

Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director general of the aviation authority, said it would “deal in the best way” with any issues around airspace congestion. 

The testing of electric cargo planes is part of UPS’s strategy to become 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050 – which is also the UAE’s deadline for net zero. The shipping company also aims to source 30 percent of its aviation fuel from sustainable sources by 2035.

Bala Subramanian, chief digital and technology officer at UPS, said: “These incredible aircraft serve as a foundation for future solutions to reduce emissions in our air and ground operations.”

Gulf businesses and agencies are working on a number of projects that aim to make passenger and cargo aviation more sustainable. Air travel accounts for around 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. 

UAE airlines Emirates and Etihad have linked up with renewable energy specialist Masdar and Adnoc to develop sustainable aviation fuels.

These fuels could reduce net carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association, and could account for 65 percent of the reductions required for net zero in 2050.

Tupan, a Brazilian cargo and military drone manufacturer, is setting up operations in Dubai, in a bid to speed up e-commerce deliveries and boost cross-border trade.

Its drone is a high-speed, vertical/short take-off and landing aircraft, which means it ascends like a helicopter and does not require a runway. The craft has a range of 1,000 km, offering “a safe, cost-effective and long-range solution” to transport goods, said CEO Alberto Pereira.

Last October, Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) signed an agreement with German electric air taxi developer Lilium to buy up to 100 of its aircraft for use on its domestic network. Certification by Saudi regulators is expected in 2025.

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