Hajj 2024: Saudi Arabia conducts first trial for pilotless air taxi to serve pilgrims

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Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, conducted its first trial for pilotless air taxi in Mecca, with the aim of serving Hajj pilgrims.

The EH216-S eVTOL electric aerial vehicle took off in an autonomous trial attended by the Kingdom’s Minister of Transport and Logistic Services Saleh al-Jasser and General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) President Abdulaziz al-Duailej.

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“The trial was done in order to make sure the air taxi could provide services during the Hajj season,” al-Jasser told Al Arabiya, speaking from inside the aerial vehicle.

“Pilotless and controlled from the ground, this aircraft fits in two people, and can fly without fuel for a distance of up to 40 kilometers, powered only by electricity, in full compliance with all safety parameters,” he added.

Al-Jasser said full trials and experiments will be carried out in order to develop this service, so that it can fly over a longer distance with an increased speed.

The air taxi service aims to transport pilgrims between the holy sites, facilitate emergency travel, airlift medical equipment, and provide logistical services for the transportation of goods, according to a statement from the Transport General Authority, released by Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

It is the “world’s first air taxi to be licensed by a civil aviation authority,” the statement added.

“We are following up on all the technologies available in order to be among the first countries that can benefit from these services, particularly in serving Hajj pilgrims,” al-Jasser told Al Arabiya.

Over 1.5 million pilgrims have so far arrived in Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj season, the Kingdom’s General Directorate of Passports announced earlier this week.

The Hajj is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken at least once by all Muslims who are capable of doing so.

This year’s Hajj begins on Friday, June 14.

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