BEIRUT — This year’s Dubai Airshow will open its doors to aerospace and defense exhibitors as well as visitors Nov. 14-18, featuring forums on artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies. And amid a decline in aerospace sector revenues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, organizers hope the event will contribute to the industry’s recovery and shape its future.

The United Arab Emirates-based conference is organized by Tarsus F&E LLC Middle East and is expected to host more that 20 country pavilions, 160 aircraft displays and over 1,200 exhibitors.

“The event will support the UAE’s ‘Make It In The Emirates’ initiative, showcasing the services provided by UAE entities to global experts and in the industry, and encouraging collaboration between different parties,” the organizers told Defense News, referring to the national economic initiative aimed at boosting local production.

In coordination with the Defense Services Marketing Council, the 17th Dubai Airshow will also feature a new advisory board that will assist with the actual event but also try to address challenges facing regional sectors. The board consists of high-level industry, government and academic members.

Who’s attending, and what’s planned?

For the first time, Israel, the Czech Republic, Australia and Belgium each booked a pavilion. Israel’s participation comes after the country and some of its neighbors signed the Abraham Accords, aimed at improving diplomatic relations. Also new this year is the participation of Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems; Singapore’s Kelley Aerospace; American companies Accenture and M4 Engineering; Europe-based business Eurosam; and Emirati companies NAFFCO and G42.

Other exhibitors expected to attend include American firms Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies; France’s Airbus and Dassault; Emirati firm Mubadala; and Brazil’s Embraer.

UAE defense conglomerate Edge is the show’s technology partner.

The organizers said this edition will introduce the brand-new conference stage TechXplore, which will show how technology is helping reboot aviation and changing the entire flying experience. “As part of the conference, the aviation industry’s leading tech minds will discuss the role of 5G, AI and machine learning, cybersecurity, and automation technologies in the development of the industry,” they explained.

New forums this year will focus on trending aerospace topics like advanced aerial mobility, sustainability, as well as space and air traffic and cargo.

Another new feature is the dedicated startup event VISTA, co-hosted by Boeing and AE Industrial Partners through their investment in the HorizonX venture capital scheme. Show organizers described VISTA in a statement as “the ultimate platform for innovators, creators and market disruptors to display the latest technologies and play a part in accelerating the future of the aerospace and defence industries.”

Product pitching competitions during VISTA will be held in partnership with government and industry stakeholders including Etihad Airways, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, Amazon Web Services and Boeing’s applied innovation team.

“The competition will provide startups with a chance to pitch solutions that support the host partners’ initiatives in a bid to compete for exclusive prizes. VISTA will also serve as a platform that provides mentorship programs, workshops, and high-level networking, learn about market trends and receive the best guidance from experts, key decision makers, and global investors,” organizers wrote in the statement.

Staying safe

From Jan. 3, 2020, to Oct. 25, 2021, there were 739,284 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 2,130 deaths in the UAE, according to the World Heath Organization. As of Oct. 25, 2021, a total of 20,921,016 vaccine doses were administered in the country.

“To ensure the utmost safety and well-being of all our attendees, we will be placing strict measures like keeping social distance, wearing of masks, thermal screening and sanitization, having a maximum capacity at exhibition stands, and more. The show will have trained safety wardens monitoring social distancing and wearing of masks throughout the event at all times,” organizers told Defense News.

“Some technologies that have been widely used in the aviation space post COVID-19 include contactless solutions like facial recognition, thermal screening and autonomous cleaning robots.”

Additional measures for security and comfort include “wearable technology, robotics used in helping with customer management and baggage handling, and 5G ... to deliver higher network speed and accommodate the requirements of passengers. Other emerging technologies include AI use in chatbots and cybersecurity that uses advanced technologies like blockchain to combat cyberattacks.”

Agnes Helou is a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.

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