No-one has seen a futuristic vision of such grandeur and splendour. The ambition is immense. The financial costs extraordinary. A brand new city, as green as green can be, constructed in the desert area of Tabuk Province in northwestern Saudi Arabia covering a site of 10,200 sq. miles or a similar size to Massachusetts, where growing construction costs of up to USD1 trillion are now being bandied around like Monopoly money.
This is the world of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K Dick and Frank Herbert all rolled into one. And while critics continue to pound the dirt pooh-poohing the vision and technological impossibilities, NEOM stands firm and is presently centre stage at the four-day Cityscape Global Property Event located in the Exhibition and Convention Centre, Malham, Riyadh (September 10th-13th). Around 180,000 stakeholders from the world’s property sector are expected to attend. UK attendees include Savills, Select Property, TMG Property and James Cubitt & Partners.
Like NEOM, this event is new. The Middle East is increasingly becoming the coterie of the super rich. Rationale suggests, the region backed by Chinese expertise and know-how, is to become the next global powerhouse as the West’s influence crumbles. It is of no surprise to learn that increasing numbers of Western companies are eyeing up future opportunities, where property is a major and highly lucrative sector. NEOM represents the breathtaking vision of this future dominance and why the project has been given such standing at the show. It is also a founding partner and a major sponsor for an array of Forums, keynote speakers and discussions under the ‘NEOM Future of Living Summit Main Stage’.
Part of the project’s vision is the banning of all cars and vehicles in the city to be replaced by passenger eVTOLs and delivery drones. Some of the leading flying taxi companies are already involved in the project including Volocopter, while others like Joby and Lilium are positioning themselves in the region. No doubt, China-based eVTOLs will also play a major role. NEOM is showcasing its flagship developments at the exhibition: The Line, a revolutionary vertical city; Trojena, a year-round mountain destination; Sindalah, a luxury island resort; and Oxagon, a green as can be advanced industrial area.
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In June, a successful series of tests of Volocopter’s Volocity eVTOL took place in Saudi Arabia marking another step toward adoption and commercial operations in NEOM and beyond. This was the first time such an aircraft had received a special flight authorisation and performed trial flights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The program lasted over a week and built on 18 months of collaboration between NEOM, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), and Volocopter, with the aim of implementing and scaling an electric UAM ecosystem and testbed in the futuristic city.
Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM, commented, “The successful test flight of a Volocopter eVTOL is not just another milestone on the journey towards our creation of an innovative, sustainable, multimodal transportation system, but a tangible example of NEOM as a global accelerator and incubator of solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Driving the development of smart, sustainable and safe mobility systems will improve liveability and connectivity in cities around the world and reduce carbon emissions, creating a cleaner future for all.”
Volocity Flying over The Oxagon (graphic image)
His Excellency, Abdulaziz A. Al-Duailej, President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, added, “This represents an important milestone of the Saudi aviation sector and another steady step towards achieving new industries that contribute to the output GDP and create more jobs. It also confirms GACA’s commitment to enabling the safe integration of innovative air transport patterns that improve the mobility experience of individuals in urban areas and the quality of life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
While Christian Bauer, CCO and CFO of Volocopter, remarked, “As the first eVTOL aircraft to ever test in Saudi Arabia, we are proud to have lain the groundwork for our future collaboration here in NEOM.”
Volocopter eVTOLs will be the key to NEOM’s smart and sustainable multimodal mobility system, which will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy generated by solar and wind energy sources. They will be used in a variety of roles, including as air taxis and emergency response vehicles.
The test flights build on NEOM’s EUR175 million investment and joint venture with Volocopter and positions the futuristic project as a leader in future mobility solutions.
With over 200 renowned speakers, thought leaders, and decision-makers sharing insights on innovative and sustainable practices, the Cityscape event is a hub of knowledge and opportunity. UK keynote speakers, for example, include TV Dragons’ Den, Peter Jones, and the presently embarrassed Lord Alan Sugar after his UKP186 million tax bill debacle. A highlight from NEOM’s main stage included (September 11th) a keynote address from Al Nasr, alongside special presentations from some of the minds behind its flagship developments.
List of Forums and Keynote Speeches
The Cityscape Global website writes, “One of the most exciting elements is the opportunity to experience the future of living, courtesy of NEOM. It seeks to engage with prospective future residents, investors, and partners as it progresses from concept to construction.”
The project describes itself as “a destination and a home for people who dream big and want to be part of building a new model for exceptional liveability, creating thriving businesses and reinventing environmental conservation. NEOM will include hyperconnected, cognitive cities, ports and enterprise zones, research centres, sports and entertainment venues and tourist destinations.”
NEOM’s exhibition features models of these flagship developments as well as live-streams of construction progress on site, and immersive VR experiences. Expert teams will be on hand to support attendees in their understanding.
The event is playing host to hundreds of exhibitors including master developers, showcasing the largest global projects. It will also provide a platform for B2B real estate services, featuring developers, architects, PropTech innovators, consultants, and contractors.
The Line Under Construction Using Chinese Engineering Expertise
Impressively, the event opened on Sunday (September 10th) with a bang after the announcement of new Saudi Arabian property projects worth USD17.3 billion. Of these, the lion’s share comes from the National Housing Company which is set to develop new real estate projects valued at USD11.2 billion in the suburbs and communities under their administration. Additionally, a business centre and the Khuzam sports city in Khuzam Suburb was also launched.
Alexander Heuff, exhibition Director of Cityscape Global, underscored the significance of this event. He said, “Our launch ties perfectly into the three key pillars of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy: A vibrant society, thriving economy and ambitious nation. In recent years, the real estate market in Saudi Arabia has grown exponentially, attracting large-scale foreign and domestic investment.”
It is essential global eVTOL and drone companies gain a foothold in this future economic power force. For the Middle East is the future.
Al-Nasr continued, “What we are creating in NEOM represents the opportunity of a lifetime, which will both secure the prospects of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and accelerate global progress. The chance to appreciate, understand and share in this transformative vision is not to be missed.”
Western eVTOL, drone and personal flying vehicle companies, in particular, please take heed.
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