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UAE’s drone sector flies high but challenges persist

Drones exhibition Abu Dhabi 2022 Reuters/Kyodo
UAE firms such as Edge are benefitting from growth in the drones sector, but there are still challenges, including licensing and getting regulatory approval, industry observers say
  • $4.1m revenue in 2023
  • Wide range of applications
  • Regulatory approval is a challenge

As the drones sector in the UAE continues to grow, Microavia, a Dubai-based drone company, is using its drones to explore for critical minerals in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. 

These drones, equipped with AI and computer vision technology, conduct geophysical surveys at low altitudes, providing cost-effective geological information compared with ground-based exploration.

The story is another example of the rapid growth in 2023 in investment in the drone sector, particularly in the UAE, where significant funds have been allocated for the development and deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles in both civilian and military arenas.

Research company Statista projected that the drone market in the UAE would generate revenue of $4.1 million in 2023, across a range of different sectors. 

In 2024, the market is predicted to record a growth rate of 7.7 percent.

Abu Dhabi-based defence conglomerate Edge Group invested $14 million earlier tn 2023 in High Lander, an Israeli drone fleet management company, for traffic management solutions that are “drone-agnostic”, meaning they do not rely on a particular model of drone.

Ethmar International Holding’s technology arm, Wings Logistics Hub, said it aims to purchase 100 air taxis from the Chinese drone maker EHang Holdings to advance urban air transportation and smart city management in the Mena region.

In the agricultural sector, Feds Drone-powered Solutions use drones that enable precision farming by offering real-time crop data. This allows farmers to optimise resource deployment and respond quickly to plant stress, diseases or pest infestations.

“There has been an uptake of investment into autonomous AI-driven drones over the past three years and we see it increasing as we get closer to these drones getting flying certifications by regulatory bodies across the world,” said Angad Singh, global director for innovation at the logistics company Aramex.

Challenges remain

Despite these advancements, there are still challenges before the drone sector can see further growth, experts told AGBI.

Alex Lapirov,  CEO of Microavia, said: “Integrating drone technology presents businesses with challenges such as regulatory compliance, privacy concerns and initial investment costs.”

Aramex’s Singh agreed that regulatory approval and the licensing of drones was still a challenge.

Furthermore, “other elements such as operator training and drone management would require technical know-how for a business to manage efficiently.”

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