Unmanned systems and the UAE's defence industries will be the focus of the 11th International Defence Exhibition (Idex) - when it opens in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Launched in 1993, Idex takes place biennially and is the only tri-service international defence and maritime security exhibition in the Middle East and North Africa region demonstrating the latest technology across land, sea and air sectors of defence.
"To keep pace with an evolving industry landscape we have made a series of strategic additions to this year's expo, including newly introduced unmanned systems and helicopter demonstration areas featuring hands-on technology workshops to showcase the latest in defence technology," said Major General Obaid Al Ketbi, the head of the 2013 Idex Higher Organising Committee.
"Unmanned systems represent the very leading edge of defence technology, reinforcing strong security infrastructures and keeping troops out of harm's way," said Saleh Al Marzooqi, the Idex director. "The unmanned systems area fits naturally with Idex's history of innovation and market leadership."
In 2011 Idex attracted 1,060 exhibiting companies from 52 countries and more than 60,000 attendees. This year, 1,111 companies from 59 countries will participate.
Taking place at the same time as Idex will be Navdex, the region's leading naval defence and maritime security exhibition, sponsored by Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding. On Saturday, 77 defence ministers and 72 senior military officers from 82 countries will attend the second Gulf Defence Conference (GDC) at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi.
France's minister of defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and a British deputy minister of defence, Philip Dunne, will be among the speakers.
"The GDC is a key opportunity for Abu Dhabi to host industry and government thought leaders addressing critical areas of industry development," said Maj Gen Al Ketbi. "As the official conference of Idex, the GDC helps reinforce Abu Dhabi's position as a major hub within the global defence industry while addressing issues key to sustainable regional security."
More than 147 UAE-based companies will hold exhibits at the conference. Among those with the largest space reserved are Tawazun and Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi-based investment and development company.
"Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 makes clear that diversification beyond oil and gas will require advancement in sectors including aerospace and defence," said Mohammed Omar Abdullah, the undersecretary of the Department of Economic Development.
"Abu Dhabi-based companies have already achieved significant progress in these areas, establishing the foundations of industry that will support economic development for decades to come.
"Idex presents the ideal platform for these companies to showcase their products and services, underpinning their international visibility and support the long-term success of the industry in Abu Dhabi."
The Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments line-up of unmanned, remotely controlled vehicles across air, land and sea and Caracal's range of leading-edge hand guns and rifles will be on display at the UAE pavilion. As will NIMR's multipurpose vehicles specifically designed for tactical missions in harsh environments.
"We consider Idex to be an ideal platform for us to strengthen our position as a pioneer in the UAE's defence manufacturing sector," said Saif Al Hajeri, the chief executive of Tawazun Holding.
"What we are most looking forward to is showcasing our diverse capabilities in three different areas of defence - land, sea and air - and how we are creating state-of-the-art products, technologies and solutions that have been, and remain to be, attractive for the global market."
Idex is organised by Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company in association with the UAE Armed Forces General Headquarters.