Dubai sets 2026 goal for eVTOL air taxi launch, and praises Joby and Skyports Infrastructure

Dubai eVTOL air taxi

Dubai has renewed a previous pledge to be one of the world’s early deployers of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL), this time setting a 2026 launch objective for air taxi services in the city-state and commercial capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Government leaders voiced their enthusiasm about eVTOL passenger transportation at Dubai’s ongoing annual World Government Summit, where Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum set 2026 as the intended target for air taxi services. That revived a pledge officials made back in 2017 to embrace electric-powered next-generation travel in the city and across the UAE – intentions which hadn’t progressed much since then. 

Now it looks as if that plan is being kick-started and thrown into high developmental gear.

Read: AAM company Joby completes second phase of FAA air taxi certification

Accompanying Al Maktoum’s comments was a tweeted video by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) touting its embrace of eVTOL tech, and pledging the city would be the world’s first to develop a full network of vertiports to facilitate air taxi activities

Visuals in the clip – as well as comments made during the event – suggested two sector companies may now be positioned as front-runners in Dubai’s push to launch aerial services.

The first is Santa Cruz-based air taxi developer Joby, whose eVTOL was the featured craft in computer-generated imagery in the Dubai RTA video. In addition to text captions of the future planes describing them as designed to fly “one pilot + four passengers” – an exact match of Joby’s configuration – the top speed of 300 km/h specified also roughly corresponds to the California startup’s 320 km/h max.

Should those apparent nods to Joby place it in a potential leadership spot in Dubai and wider UAE, that would be bad news for EHang, which has big hopes for its business in the region.

And while even a possible early advantage for Joby wouldn’t necessarily translate into a zero-sum loss for rivals, the RTA’s video must have also come as a disappointment to Lilium. Last year the German company formed an air taxi development partnership with Saudi Arabia’s state airline – an activity it reportedly hoped to extend across the Gulf region.

Read more: Saudia eVTOL accord gives Lilium a strategic MENA foothold

The other sector company that may have gotten a competitive lift from the eVTOL intentions coming out of Dubai this week is the UK’s Skyports Infrastructure, whose designs for vertiports for air taxi use also received praise. 

The RTA said it initially plans to build those takeoff, landing, and recharging facilities in four spots – New Dubai International Airport; Downtown; Palm Jumeirah; and Dubai Marina – before expanding the network. The touting of Skyports Infrastructure models by officials seems to bode well for the London-based company’s business in the city and UAE.

Not surprisingly, Skyports Infrastructure matched Joby swiftness in celebrating the showcasing of its air taxi activities amid pledges by Dubai to initiate air taxi services three years from now.

“We are honoured to have received such strong endorsement of our Dubai vertiport vision from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed,” Skyports Infrastrure said in a tweet. “Thank you @rta_dubai for the opportunity to showcase our infrastructure at @WorldGovSummit.

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