Saudi Arabia's PIF mulls launch of 'heli-taxi' company
Upon its launch, the air taxi operator would provide transport services within Saudi Arabia's main cities, as well as tourist trips to key hotspots around the kingdom
Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund (PIF), outlined its plans to launch a company that would act as the operator of 'heli-taxis' in the kingdom.
The company would be launched as part of the The PIF Program 2018-2020, which includes 30 initiatives – 20 local, seven international, and three institutional.
Heli-taxis are a type of air taxi services that entail the use of helicopters. A recent example of the service's global deployment is the heli-taxi programme planned for India's Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bangalore.
According to a PIF document outlining its roster of Vision Realisation Programs, the kingdom presented "opportunities to invest in heli-taxi services for tourists and businessmen in order to make Saudi Arabia['s] discovery and intra-city mobility easier".
The document added: "PIF is currently exploring the opportunity of establishing a heli-taxi company, focussing on two particular types of services."
These verticals included the provision of private transportation services "within the [kingdom's] main cities, such as the route between King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh and King Abdullah Financial District".
Additionally, "tourist trips to various attractions, including Riyadh landmarks (Edge of the World and Al-Thamama park), destinations in the vicinity of Jeddah (Corniche and Old Jeddah), [and] the new Red Sea project" were included as areas that the heli-taxi service would cover.
PIF said it expected that the company, upon its launch, would "facilitate access to new real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, while providing high-quality services that complement [PIF's] tourism and entertainment initiatives".
The heli-taxi service was also expected to support PIF's 'Giga-Projects', a part of the sovereign wealth fund's plans to develop integrated ecosystems that would support economic transformation in the kingdom, and "act as a catalyst for investment across various sectors".
Giga-Projects announced by the PIF so far include the 26,500km2 Neom development, the 34,000km2 Red Sea Project, and the 334km2 Qiddiya Project, located 40km southwest of Riyadh.
PIF, led by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Bin Salman, is investing billions of riyals to ensure future growth and security for the kingdom's economy.
From property development to energy services' provision and waste management, PIF has recently made investments in various companies to diversify Saudi's revenue and service streams.
These investments, coupled with numerous others, are expected to raise the value of PIF's assets under management (AUM) to $400bn (SAR1.5tn) by 2020, creating 256,000 jobs along the way.
This September, Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced it had conducted the inaugural flight of its Autonomous Flying Taxi (AAT) in Dubai.
The two-seater vehicle, which was capable of transporting passengers without direct or remote human intervention, would be used by RTA to establish the world’s first self-flying taxi service.