Emirates Forsatek
At this year's ForsaTEK, the Emirates Group’s partners engaged visitors with an eclectic mix of innovation and technology. Image Credit: Emirates

Dubai: Dubai’s Emirates Group is exploring advanced robotics and extended reality (XR) solutions to future-proof its aviation offerings. This includes using AI to co-pilot aircraft, robotics to deliver payloads, and virtual reality (VR) for cabin crew training. XR encompasses augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality.

What’s more? Emirates is exploring the use of VR to train aviation engineers, implementing biometrics for payments at retail outlets, deploying drones for heavy payload deliveries, utilising self-driving cars to transport luggage on the tarmac, and employing multilingual, targeted public address (PA) systems using 3D audio technology.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Emirates Group, the parent company of Emirates Airlines, has a decade-long strategy to invest in innovations that have the potential for scaling across its subsidiaries, such as SkyCargo and dnata. After achieving Proof of Concept (POC) status, the company conducts trials in partnership with established tech firms and startups. Senior Emirates officials anticipate these advancements will eventually be integrated into the aviation and travel sectors.

ForsaTEK V2.0 fosters a trailblazing platform for innovation in aviation Emirates

These innovations were revealed at the group’s annual innovation platform, ForsaTEK, which returned to Dubai for its second edition on Thursday, June 6. The event showcased various innovations and advanced technologies the company is researching and trialling for enterprise and customer-facing applications.

ForsaTEK was officially opened by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, in the presence of Dr Sultan Al Neyadi, UAE’s Minister of State for Youth and the first Arab to perform a spacewalk.

Sheikh Ahmed said, “On a much larger scale this year, a key focus for ForsaTEK is displaying innovation in action. More than ever, our industry must collaborate with key stakeholders – from government entities and tech partners to startups and industry titans from different fields.”

MIRA at Emirates

Keenan Hamza, Vice President of Technology Futures and Innovation at Emirates Group, told Gulf News, “Last year's inaugural ForsaTEK focused on inspiration, encouraging more innovation and engagement with partners.”

He said, “This year, we're showcasing active projects. For example, last year, we demonstrated extended reality technology, which we've now embedded in our business. We launched our dedicated extended reality platform—MIRA—at the Dubai Airshow last year.” MIRA is poised to be Emirates’ virtual reality identity, akin to Alexa for Amazon and Siri for Apple. Hamza explained that the company has entered into a multi-year partnership with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) spatial computing team.

He explained, “Normally, VR is bought for specific uses, but we built an enterprise platform for the entire business. We started with cabin crew training, enabling them to practice tasks like plating caviar from home, which is crucial given we can't bring all 20,000 crew members into training for new services. This technology enhances our training efficiency.”

Last year, Emirates announced the introduction of Sara, the world’s first robot check-in assistant, at ForsaTEK. “Today, Sara is working full-time at Emirates’ city check-in counter at DIFC,” said Hamza. “We are also using her to collect much information about customers… on how passengers interact with Sara. And with that data, we can go from one Sara to many Saras,” he added.

Future-proofing Emirates

Hamza said that Emirates’ 10-year robotic strategy involves various time horizons; for instance, trials for the idealworks robot begin in two weeks at the airline’s DWC cargo warehouse. idealworks provides a holistic solution that covers all relevant components of a successful robotics ecosystem.

“If successful, it can scale immediately, revolutionising operations by integrating robots with human workflows,” said Hamza.

Since 2016, the company’s startup initiatives have nurtured numerous cohorts, making Intelak the region's pioneering startup incubator.

He added that with over 160 alums, some startups have been acquired or contracted, like DUBZ Dubai for home check-in and EmiratesRED, where passengers can pre-order inflight shopping with Emirates.

The company also nurtures innovations like Beacon AI's AI-powered copilot, enhancing pilot interaction with streamlined data integration. These advancements aim to redefine air travel, focusing on efficiency and passenger experience.

At ForsaTEK, the Emirates Group also announced its agreement with Onyx by J.P. Morgan, the firm’s blockchain business unit and the first organisation to join the Group’s recently launched Blockchain Development Centre.