Tell us about EDGE Group and its areas of business in general, as well as the company’s key products and solutions at Dubai Airshow 2023?
EDGE is a leading advanced technology conglomerate which has strategically consolidated more than 25 entities, creating a comprehensive defence and security ecosystem. Our capabilities are diverse and extensive, covering a broad range of defence and security, and with a core focus on smart weapons, electronic warfare, and autonomous capabilities across air, land, and sea. Our commitment to adopting the most advanced technologies, investing in research and development (R&D), and acquiring highly specialised small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), has solidified our position as a leader in the industry.
At the Dubai Airshow 2023, we showcased our robust portfolio with the launch of 11 new aerospace systems, adding to our already impressive collection of more than 160 systems and solutions. Among these, three autonomous aircraft were the highlights at our indoor stand: the REACH-M, the SINYAR, and the HT-100.
The REACH-M is a fixed-wing, medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicle which is designed for ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) and light ground-attack operations. Featuring advanced autonomous capabilities like automatic take-off and landing, it represents a new, larger variant of the REACH-S providing increase payload availability.
A large, jet-powered, fixed-wing unmanned aircraft, the SINYAR is an innovative evolution in our product line. It was developed after EDGE acquired a 50% share in FLARIS, a Polish aviation company. We transformed their LAR-01 small jet into an unmanned variant designed for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions, merging commercial innovation with advanced defence technology.
We also recently acquired a majority stake in ANAVIA, a Swiss company and leader in vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned systems. Showcased on our stand at Dubai Airshow, the HT-100 advanced multi-role unmanned intermeshing-rotor helicopter stands out with its unique Flettner double rotor system. This design enables higher payloads and increased flight stability, making it a versatile addition to our unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) offerings.
Through these products and our comprehensive approach to defence and security, EDGE is committed to driving innovation and delivering cutting-edge solutions to meet the evolving needs of our global clients.
The Gulf region’s market is currently witnessing intense competition. What makes EDGE Group’s products attractive to customers?
To ensure our products stand out amidst the intense competition, EDGE adopts a customer-centric approach, focusing on meeting end-user requirements through industry collaboration, synergising our entities, and deeply understanding our customers’ operational environments.
Our commitment to providing the best solutions is exemplified by the partnership between our precision guided munitions manufacturer HALCON and Rheinmetall Air Defence AG. This collaboration has resulted in the integration of HALCON’s SKYKNIGHT air defence missile and missile launcher units with the Oerlikon Skynex air defence system. This combination offers our customers an enhanced defence capability against a broad range of both conventional and asymmetric aerial threats. Many countries in the region already use Skyshield or Skyguard systems, which can seamlessly connect with the Oerlikon Skynex SKYKNIGHT system, offering a significant advantage.
EDGE’s diverse range of systems and solutions enables us to meet specific customer requirements by leveraging the synergies across our various entities. For instance, we recently fulfilled a request from an export customer who required naval vessels equipped with UAVs for ISR missions. We met this demand by integrating the HT-100, manufactured by ANAVIA, onto naval vessels being constructed by Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB).
Our systems and solutions are meticulously tailored to specific missions. We take pride in working very closely with end users to understand their intricate needs, and we possess an exceptional understanding of the operational environment and conditions in the Gulf region. Several of our products have a mission-proven status in the Gulf region, such as CARACAL’s CAR 816 assault rifle, NIMR’s AJBAN and JAIS vehicles, various ADSB’s vessels, and the AL TARIQ long-range precision-guided munition.
In your opinion, what are the defence solutions and technologies that the region is currently lacking in your area of expertise?
It’s not so much about a lack of specific solutions or technologies, but more about aligning our offerings with the evolving military strategies of our customers. The dynamic nature of defence needs means that our focus is on continuously adapting and updating our solutions to meet the specific strategic objectives and operational requirements of each customer in the region.
EDGE is aggressively investing in three core areas, autonomous systems, electronic warfare, and smart weapons. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) paired with existing autonomous technology is offering end-users powerful force multipliers while risking significantly less lives. Our autonomous technology portfolio is rapidly growing, and it’s an area where we see commercial innovations playing an important role.
In terms of electronic warfare, a complex electromagnetic environment increasingly underpins the operational theatre, at least in conventional warfare. We are also seeing a new approach to joint operations, where elements in different domains are becoming a unified force. Actionable intelligence, advanced protection, and a networked approach to multi-domain communications are vital areas of focus for EDGE.
Finally, the future of tactical and strategic missions will involve a significant smart weapon capability. These systems have and will continue to play a major role in force projection, air defence, and strike capabilities. Smart weapons have rendered the bomber aircraft largely redundant, redefined the role of fighter aircraft, and provided militaries with far reaching strategic mission capabilities. Our focus in this area is predominantly on developing technologies that offer regional customers highly precise, long range solutions capable of operation in multiple domains.
How do you see artificial intelligence, which has become the beating heart of many sectors and an essential tool in the military and defence sector? What are your company’s key projects in this field?
AI is making a transformative impact on the defence industry, enhancing data analysis, decision-making, and autonomous operations. We are significantly investing in the development of AI, both in-house and with partners, and incorporating it into our product line-up to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and responsiveness of our systems. AI has the capacity to boost or fully transform our existing capabilities, including: training, logistics, cybersecurity, smart weapons, and autonomous systems across air, land, and maritime domains.
How would you evaluate your recent experience and participation in Dubai Air Show 2023, and did it meet your expectations and the requirements of the defence sector in general?
Our participation at Dubai Airshow 2023 was hugely successful. We announced major deals, acquired highly specialised companies, signed new partnerships, and unveiled new additions to our product portfolio. We announced large contracts with the UAE Ministry of Defence (MoD), including an AED 4.1 billion contract to supply munitions, and a contract to supply 100 REACH-S unmanned aircraft. We established new partnerships with prominent defence companies, such as General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, to integrate EDGE smart weapons onto the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, and Roketsan, to explore collaboration in smart weapons development.
In terms of meeting the requirements of the defence sector, we also unveiled the X-Range, the region’s first multi-domain test range, which will be an international testing and evaluation facility for defence, aerospace, and commercial products, as well as a training ground for law enforcement and defence organisations, the first such facility in the region.
How important is the UAE and GCC market to EDGE?
EDGE’s commitment to the UAE and GCC markets is pivotal, centred on building sovereign defence capabilities and exporting our products in line with the broader vision and mandate of the UAE Leadership. Our commitment extends beyond commercial interests; we are invested in developing a self-reliant defence ecosystem. This approach is vital for ensuring that our defence solutions are not only technologically advanced but also sustainable and tailored to the specific needs of the region.
We have already made significant strides in this direction, with our products and services now being utilised in several markets worldwide. This global reach underlines our success in not only meeting but exceeding the demands of various international markets, while simultaneously maintaining a strong and focused presence within the UAE.
What are your company’s future plans? How do you see the company changing in the coming years?
We have achieved many significant milestones and proud moments throughout the past four years. Our aim is to maintain this growth trajectory and intensify our investments in the latest technologies. Today, EDGE boasts an impressive portfolio of 160 innovative systems and solutions – a major accomplishment in the short timeframe, and a global footprint that covers over 50 countries across five continents, including Brazil, where the group opened its first international office this year.
EDGE future plans are firmly rooted in advancing our position as a global leader in the defence sector. In the coming years, we’ll continue to expand our global presence and forge alliances with key players in the industry. These partnerships are essential for sharing knowledge, driving innovation, and enhancing our product offerings.
What are your recent biggest accomplishments in the unmanned and defence sector?
In a brief period of four years, EDGE has made impressive strides in the autonomous systems domain. Our portfolio has expanded rapidly, from a single offering to forty autonomous aerial solutions.
A prime example aggressive product development is the REACH-S UAV. Just two years after its launch, we successfully concluded its testing and secured an order for 100 units. This achievement underscores our agility and commitment to delivering high-quality solutions to the market at an accelerated rate.
Furthermore, our recent strategic investments in SIATT and ANAVIA have quickly proven their worth. Shortly after acquiring stakes in these companies, we announced substantial orders from the Brazilian Navy, and received a letter of intent from the UAE Ministry of Defence for the MANSUP-ER system. Additionally, we have secured a significant sale of several HT-100s to a major international client.
These accomplishments demonstrate not just the pace at which we’re advancing our product development programmes, but also the growing global confidence in the quality of our solutions. Armed forces worldwide are increasingly recognising the value and effectiveness of our autonomous systems, solidifying our position as a leader in this domain.
What is EDGE’s product roadmap to enhance cybersecurity, homeland security and law enforcement?
We have significantly expanded our cyber capabilities in the last year, specifically in the areas of digital risk protection and secure communications. Acquiring ORYXLABS enabled us to elevate our portfolio with award-winning cybersecurity solutions which are designed to effectively monitor organisations’ IT landscape and identify potential vulnerabilities across digital infrastructure and networks.
Similarly, the acquisition of KATIM strengthened our position as a leader in the development of secure communications solutions. From ultra-secure smartphones to post-quantum network encryptors, KATIM’s solutions ensure sensitive data is secure at all times.
Also, with the acquisition of Etimad Holding, EDGE will enhance its extensive capabilities by establishing a new Homeland Security cluster and boosting its talented workforce. Homeland security is a fast-growing sector, with great potential for synergies across EDGE’s current programs and capabilities. This will position EDGE as a leader in security solutions and diversify its offerings across various critical sectors.