Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin companies can contribute to the growth of these priority industries.

The Middle East region has 87 airlines, with 1.2 million flights and 7.2 metric tons of cargo originating from these airports in 2019. Currently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), commercial fleets are at capacity, and opportunities exist in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services, as well as supply chain and spare parts. As the UAE adds more and more data collection touchpoints to its aviation infrastructure, this will open up opportunities for artificial intelligence and machine learning systems to assist with smart decision-making in the planning and operations of its airports and airlines. Innovators in the field are using biometric scanning, ADS-B (automated dependent surveillance-broadcast) data and even air traffic controller physiology—in addition to predictive route demand and more cost-effective flight paths—to make flying safer than ever before.

The UAE has the region’s highest defense spending relative to GDP. The combination of lower oil prices, its military being actively engaged operationally, and the need for general maintenance means defense spending is not likely to decrease in either the UAE or Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia’s 2019 defense budget is $51 billion—the third-largest national military budget in the world. Opportunities in the UAE defense aviation sector include supply chain to maintain fleets; infrastructure expansion and improvements; aviation services including MRO, autonomous systems and human/machine collaboration; innovative technologies; and cyber-hardened mission systems and platforms.

In addition to an awareness of what these countries are looking for in terms of defense aviation spending, Wisconsin companies should take care to learn what will give them a non-price-related advantage when selling into the UAE. It is the country’s goal to become not just a regional but a global manufacturer of defense equipment and technology. Toward this goal, the UAE has embraced the public-private partnership model to provide technology transfer, joint assembly/manufacturing and other value-added propositions through its offsets program, which is positioned as an investment in the local economy to create a sustainable manufacturing base. On the heels of a successful launch of the first Emirati astronaut in September, aerospace systems are an area of national focus as the UAE moves closer to its goal of landing a spacecraft on Mars by 2021.