New Aviation X Lab incubator to reinvent the next era of air travel

During the opening event, Thales showcased its virtual assistant Solo could help increase safety and support the pilot in every decisive moment during flight.

A new aviation-specific incubator called Aviation X Lab has been launched in Dubai following a long-term partnership between Emirates, Airbus, Collins Aerospace, GE Aviation and Thales.

The five aviation giants have created Aviation X Lab, in partnerhip with Dubai Future Foundation, to innovate and create the next era of aviation with the vision to positively impact the lives of one billion people.

During the opening event, Aviation X Lab announced two challenges open to startups, innovators, academics, NGOs, activists and corporates globally to participate with the deadline for submissions set in early 2020. The first challenge will focus on reducing the carbon footprint of the aviation industry by 2030, while the second challenge will explore the concept of airports as airportals, rethinking the airport model to accomodate the growing number of passengers.

The incubator will select teams and bring them to Dubai to co-create, experiment and develop prototypes at their premises in Area 2071. In the next phase, up to four teams will be shortlisted, and invited to pitch to investors and venture capitalists for additional funding.

Aviation X Lab will work in cycles of 12 months with five key active phases: launching challenges; sourcing start-ups globally; validating concepts; exploring rapid feasibility, and sourcing funding. Through this journey, X Lab will offer hands-on logistics support, research, resources, peer feedback, mentorship, and close collaboration.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive Emirates Airline & Group, commented: “Aviation is a cornerstone of the UAE’s economy, supporting around 800,000 jobs and contributing to the economy US$47.4 billion, which is set to increase nearly three-fold by 2037. Dubai is looking to mitigate the challenges in the aviation ecosystem, and we have a laser-sharp focus on the evolution of technology and innovations that impact the industry, communities, future generations and our planet.

“We want to look far beyond aviation as it exists today and embrace the innovations waiting to happen, the next set of big ideas in the aviation space. Aviation X Lab will identify, support, fund and make these innovations accessible globally. Our aim is to transform human mobility.”

During the opening event three key products were also unveiled – one developed from Thales and two from Emirates.

Thales showcased how Solo, its virtual assistant powered by Thales TrUE AI (Transparent, Understandable, and Ethical AI), could help increase safety and support the pilot in every decisive moment during flight. In the demo, Solo leveraged every available data to permanently provide the crew with the most efficient trajectory to optimise flight efficiency and passenger comfort.

Emirates demonstrated two ground-breaking solutions incorporating AI technology. One is focused on driving sustainability and reducing food waste by providing real-time predictions and recommendations that ensure customers get their first choice inflight, while minimising quantities of unconsumed food. Also on display was Bahja, an app created by a team of UAE Nationals, that incorporates facial recognition technology to help measure employee happiness, and provides real-time feedback. The app encourages employees to share their motivations with the user community, contributing to a happier workplace, and therefore happier customers.


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