▶ Ital­ian de­fence firm will part­ner with Abu Dhabi’s Fal­con Aviation

The National - News - - OPINION - DEENA KAMEL

Ital­ian de­fence and aerospace gi­ant Leonardo has part­nered with Abu Dhabi’s Fal­con Aviation Ser­vices to de­velop a new he­li­copter ter­mi­nal as the com­pany re­mains bullish on busi­ness in the Mid­dle East, its chief ex­ec­u­tive said.

The VIP ter­mi­nal will be based in Dubai to sup­port Fal­con Aviation he­li­copter trans­fer ser­vices to the Expo 2020 site, us­ing the AW169 he­li­copters man­u­fac­tured by Leonardo, Alessan­dro Pro­fumo, Leonardo’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, told The

Na­tional be­fore the Dubai Air­show to­day.

“It fea­tures pri­vate, air­port-like com­fort and ease of trans­port, and is an im­por­tant in­vest­ment in mod­ern pas­sen­ger trans­port ser­vices and mo­bil­ity, with a ded­i­cated fa­cil­ity that will sup­port Expo 2020’s visi­tors’ he­li­copter trans­fer,” he said.

“In the UAE we have very good de­mand on the civil side with our he­li­copter busi­ness.”

Leonardo has also signed an agree­ment with Abu Dhabi Aviation Train­ing Cen­tre to house the AW169 and AW139 pilot train­ing sim­u­la­tors in a deal fa­cil­i­tated by Tawazun Eco­nomic Coun­cil, the body tasked with de­vel­op­ing a home-grown de­fence in­dus­try.

Leonardo ex­pects to boost its an­nual Mid­dle East sales be­yond $1.5 bil­lion (Dh5.5bn) as it pur­sues deals for its naval com­bat sys­tems, cy­ber se­cu­rity and he­li­copters, amid plans to buoy over­all global rev­enue. The com­pany’s Mid­dle East busi­ness ac­counts for up to 10 per cent of its to­tal or­der book.

The com­pany last week said it in­vested in Sky­d­weller Aero, a start-up that is de­vel­op­ing so­lar-pow­ered drones ca­pa­ble of un­lim­ited flight with­out re­fu­elling.

While Leonardo has not yet held talks with Mid­dle East cus­tomers on the new ven­ture, it sees po­ten­tial uses for the tech­nol­ogy in the re­gion, where sun­light is in abun­dant sup­ply and gov­ern­ments are in­creas­ingly in­vest­ing in re­new­able sources of en­ergy.

“It’s a re­gion where so­lar power will be in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant and this is a piece of tech that could be rel­e­vant in terms of fu­ture ap­pli­ca­tion and can be rel­e­vant in many sec­tors,” Mr Pro­fumo said. “We’re very in­ter­ested in hav­ing co-op­er­a­tion with lo­cal com­pa­nies.”

Au­ton­o­mous flights of the drone are pro­jected for 2020 and the first pro­duc­tion model of the un­manned ver­sion of the air­craft is ex­pected in 2021.

Leonardo is bullish on busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Mid­dle East de­spite head­winds that have weighed on re­gional and global economies.

“In spite of the eco­nomic slow­down, the re­gion is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an in­creased need for se­cu­rity and de­fence, of­fer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to com­pa­nies with a wide but fo­cused port­fo­lio of tech­nolo­gies such as Leonardo’s,” Mr Pro­fumo said. “This spans from cy­ber se­cu­rity, to counter drone sys­tems, crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­tures se­cu­rity, land and blue bor­der con­trol to air de­fence.”

De­fence com­pa­nies will be gaug­ing de­mand for se­cu­rity and early warn­ing sys­tems at the air show, push­ing to se­cure or­der com­mit­ments af­ter the re­gion wit­nessed a num­ber of at­tacks over the sum­mer.

Leonardo also sees op­por­tu­ni­ties for its Air Traf­fic Con­trol and Un­manned Ae­rial Sys­tems Traf­fic Con­trol (UTC) as the re­gion fo­cuses on ur­ban mo­bil­ity in­no­va­tion and copes with an over­crowded com­mer­cial airspace. “We are al­ready in talks with UAE com­pa­nies for busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, and we hope to be able to dis­close some ex­cit­ing news next week at the Dubai Air­show,” the ex­ec­u­tive said.

The com­pany sees po­ten­tial for a deep­ened re­la­tion­ship and more syn­er­gies af­ter the cre­ation of UAE de­fence con­glom­er­ate Edge, which in­cludes some of its part­ners such as Abu Dhabi Ship Build­ing, he said.

The com­pany will be pre­sent­ing a range of its prod­ucts at the Dubai Air­show in­clud­ing the Agus­taWest­land AW169 he­li­copter, train­ing air­craft M-346 and M-345, and its lat­est drone Falco Xplorer.

In the UAE, Leonardo sup­plies ad­vanced train­ing air­craft for the UAE Air Force. The UAE Navy also uses the com­pany’s naval com­bat sys­tems.

Leonardo is bullish on busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Mid­dle East de­spite head­winds that have weighed on economies

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