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Saudi Arabia's Neom teams up with Germany's Volocopter for urban air mobility system

The partnership will fully integrate air taxi and vertical logistics services into the kingdom's futuristic mega-city's zero-emission public transit system

Neom, the $500 billion high-tech mega-city being built in Saudi Arabia, and German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter formed a joint venture company to operate the world’s first bespoke public vertical mobility system in Neom.

The partnership, which will fully integrate air taxi and vertical logistics services into Neom's multi-modal and zero-emission public transit system, will be the sole operator of initial public transit routes across the city. It will also establish an open electric vertical take-off and landing ecosystem for vertical mobility services including logistics, emergency response and tourism.

Neom has placed a confirmed order of 15 Volocopter aircraft to start initial flight operations within the next two to three years, according to a statement on Wednesday. These include an initial order of 10 VoloCity passenger and five VoloDrone logistics aircraft, to support early activation of flight operations.

The joint venture will scale up its activities from the start of 2022, boosting urban air mobility in the region.

The collaboration will lead the development of a three-dimensional public transportation system, advancing the technical, regulatory and infrastructure solutions for eVTOL operations across Neom.

“In designing cities and urban infrastructure for the 21st century, mobility is at the centre of the equation. Through this joint venture with Volocopter, we are demonstrating to the world that Neom is the ideal region to implement urban air mobility rapidly and create a fully-integrated vertical mobility ecosystem," said Nadhmi Al Nasr, chief executive of Neom.

The growth of the mobility market, which includes public and private transportation as well as the movement of goods, has been growing over the past decades but accelerated faster than expected due to novel technologies, tightening carbon regulations and climate change goals.

Revenue in the mobility services segment is expected to reach $976.2 billion in 2021 and with a compound annual growth rate of 14.89 per cent through 2025, this would result in a market volume of $1.7 trillion, data from Statista shows.

The flights sector is mobility services’ largest segment, with a market volume of $273bn seen this year. The number of users in public transportation is expected to hit to 4.45 billion by 2025.

Mobility as a service – which is digitally enabled car-sharing and ride-hailing – is poised to be a key driver of growth and profitability for automotive markets, outstripping the profitability potential of traditional car-making, according to an Accenture study.

By 2030, revenues from manufacturing and selling vehicles, which are projected to reach $2.26tn, will be only marginally higher than they are today.

By contrast, revenues from mobility services are projected to surge to almost $1.36tn, with profits reaching as much as $249bn by 2030.

Mobility is one of the central themes of Expo 2020 Dubai, where new-age transport and travel modes on the spotlight are being positioned to help accelerate the world's progress and strengthen ties between societies.

The partnership adheres to Neom's mission to be a global living lab for future mobility and a centre of excellence for eVTOL innovation and industry.

“The partnership with Neom and the new joint venture we are creating together is going to be an exciting journey. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be an essential part of designing and operating a completely new UAM ecosystem from the ground up without the constraint of legacy infrastructure or regulation," said Christian Bauer, chief commercial officer of Volocopter.

The joint venture is the latest in a string of developments at Neom. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had already announced a futuristic new industrial city in the sea called Oxagon, which is set to be the largest floating industrial complex in the world.

Last week, Neom said it plans to expand a tiny local port into a trade and manufacturing centre near the Suez Canal. The port will anchor Oxagon, and would handle a container capacity of 3.5 million to 4 million-tonne equivalent units by 2030.

In April, Neom formed a partnership with Tabuk Fish Company to develop the Middle East and North Africa's biggest fish farm as the kingdom diversifies its economy.

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