Just over a week after the UAE’s Hope probe had sent back its first pictures of Mars, the ADNEC Exhibition Center in Abu Dhabi hosted a more down-to-earth event – the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX); and, by the time the doors had closed at the end of the first day of this week-long biennial international event, the UAE Armed Forces had signed 19 contracts worth a total of $1.37bn. The state-owned Mubadala Investment Company PJSC was, meanwhile, preparing to announce that it was planning to develop a supersonic passenger jet plan in partnership with Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
UAE’s President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid first signalled his ambition to take the country into space back in 2014, the same year that the Emirates Defence Industries Company (EDIC, now rebranded EDGE) was set up to overseas the emirates’ growing number of defence-related activities. In 2017, both defence and aerospace were identified as key elements of the Centennial Plan 2071, a visionary attempt to map out where the UAE should fe when it celebrates 100 years of independence, in 50 years time from now and what steps have been put in place to get there.
The plan’s headline objectives include:
ECONOMY: To encourage ‘a generation of UAE inventors and scientists’ to help create a globally competitive and diversified knowledge economy
SPACE: To establish the first inhabitable human settlement on Mars by 2117 and to develop a 100% Emirati-made lunar rover and send it to the moon by 2024
FOOD SECURITY: To use agritech to top the Global Food Security Index by 2051
WATER:To reduce the total demand for water resources by 21% by 2036
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT: To increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25% (in 2017) to 50% by 2050, and reduce the carbon footprint of its power generation by 70%.