Is this the ‘new norm’ for events?

The Dubai HeliShow is set to go ahead in January in both physical and 3D virtual format.

Scenes from the past: The coronavirus pandemic has forced changes to what was witnessed at the last edition of the show in 2018. Picture: Domus Group

Events run in the way we knew before may be a thing of the past as we get used to online versions following the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Domus Group, which organises of The Dubai HeliShow, the biennial international helicopter technology and operations exhibition, has come up with a new concept to maintain safety measures for the next event, confirmed to take place on January 19-21.

Originally scheduled for November 2020, the eighth edition will be a new formatted hybrid type of show – believed to be the first event in the Middle East region to use a combination of physical and 3D virtual format.

The conference is set to combine a ‘live’ in-person experience with a ‘virtual’ online component – giving both physical and online speakers and attendees the same event interaction.

Ahmad Abulhoul, managing director, Domus Group, explained: Following feedback from the industry and with the future development of Dubai HeliShow in mind, it was necessary to postpone the November event date.

“Though 70% of the planned exhibition space and sponsorship was already booked, the over- riding factor for the decision was to give our exhibitors and sponsors a wide ranging audience from around the world – either in person or online.

“The new dates will allow more time for global participants to prepare, and the implementation of the hybrid format will add convenience and flexibility to allow our expansion into other world markets that had previously found it difficult, or too costly, to attend in person.”

He added: “All of our physical exhibitors are automatically present in our virtual exhibition, in addition to the companies who can’t make it physically but still want to exhibit virtually.

“It’s the same with the conference; delegates who cannot attend physically can attend virtually through livestream in our virtual platform.”

So far, more than 30 physical exhibitors from the rotor, drone, and military sectors have been confirmed.

The physical aspect of the exhibition and conference will still take place at Dubai South, Al Maktoum International Airport.

The event will highlight new developments in the rotary industry, including the next-generation of helicopters and air taxis; the futuristic vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technologies; the future maintenance and repair organisations (MROs) in the region; and updates on aerodrome and heliport regulations.

It will also feature the unmanned air vehicle/drone sector as a new addition to its exhibition and conference platform.

Some of the international companies set to participate include Columbia Helicopters (heavy-lift helicopter fleet operator); Cartivator/SkyDrive (Japanese company building a flying car and targeting its use to light the 2021 Tokyo Olympic flame); Vita Inclinata Technologies (a load stability systems specialist from the USA); Bertoli Srl (Italian ground power manufacturer); Donaldson Aerospace (aircraft filtration systems provider); and PBS (high-quality and innovative aerospace engineering company).

Maysoon Abulhoul, chief operating officer, Domus Group, said: “The exhibition component of the show will be combining physical exhibitors over an exciting three-day period and a virtual experience via an engaging and immersive 3D virtual platform that will be live 24/7 for one year for this event.

“The platform will include a 3D tour with a 360-degree view and walk-through of a virtual venue consisting of a main lobby, exhibition hall, auditorium, and a virtual networking area.”

Key speakers are yet to be announced, but Abulhoul said the organisers are in regular contact with experts regarding participation status, depending on travel restrictions from their home countries.

The helicopter fleet to be displayed is also still to be confirmed due to “changes and logistic challenges”.

Abulhoul said the helicopters industry is “very optimistic” during this challenging time and the new 3D virtual/hybrid format was the perfect way for it to safely come together. It could, perhaps, be the ‘new norm’ for the events industry, he added.

“Many MROs, OEMs, component and software manufacturers are still very optimistic with regards to the growth of the industry because of new developments with next-generation helicopters, increased automation, technological advancements, and other future plans,” concluded Abulhoul.