AlUla to set majestic stage for Drone Champions League Super Final
The Kingdom’s historic city will be first in GCC to host a major DCL event
Updated 6 min 54 sec ago
JEDDAH: The Drone Champions League — billed as the “world championship for professional drone racing” — will hold its first Super Final in the heart of AlUla’s Old Town on Dec. 20.
AlUla will be the first location in the GCC to host a major DCL event, and although no physical drones will be flying there, the league said in a statement: “It will be a chance for drone sports enthusiasts to enjoy the stunning and diverse landscapes of AlUla, varying between golden canyons, lush green oasis or spectacular geological marvels.”
The league’s organizers describe it as a “global pioneer in professional virtual and real-life drone racing. With a mission to combine cutting-edge technology and stunning locations, it has created a one-of-a-kind racing series that has captivated millions around the world.”
The DCL has rapidly gained popularity since its launch in 2016. Originally rooted in physical drone racing, DCL has evolved into a predominantly virtual format, blending hi-tec drones with the immersive world of gaming.
The annual DCL Drone Prix season features 10 teams. The competition reaches its climax with the top six teams engaging in split finals employing an elimination-style format, culminating in the DCL Super Final.
• The annual DCL Drone Prix season features 10 teams.
• The league is exploring a return to real-life drone racing alongside virtual events.
The DCL has staged races in iconic locations worldwide, from the historic streets of Paris to the frozen landscapes of Norway, providing visual spectacles for the audience and challenging courses for the pilots.
“The convergence of technology, athleticism, and AlUla’s vision for sports and adventure will make this Super Final a truly exceptional and unforgettable experience,” the statement said.
The idea to stage the Super Final in AlUla came from Margarete Schramboeck, Austria’s former minister of economy and digital affairs and a board member of Aramco Digital. Recognizing the popularity of esports in contemporary youth culture, Schramboeck felt that Saudi Arabia, more than any other nation, exemplifies this trend.
“When the DCL team approached me, presenting their world-class drone racing league and its capabilities, I immediately saw the potential for Saudi Arabia … I envisioned it as something truly exceptional,” she told Arab News.
Drones and gaming play such an important role for our next generation — they are part of digital transformation and contribute to Saudi Vision 2030.
Margarete Schramboeck, Aramco Digital board member
Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih provided immediate support for the idea when it was presented to him at the French-Saudi Business Forum earlier this year, she added, and put her in touch with Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla.
“I was so happy my idea was supported by both. I want to thank them for making it possible,” Schramboeck added.
With over 50 million viewers around the world in 2023, the DCL’s appearance in AlUla will attract attention from across the globe for the UNESCO World Heritage site, giving the tech-savvy younger generation the opportunity to delve into AlUla’s cultural heritage through their passion for gaming.
“Drones and gaming play such an important role for our next generation — they are part of digital transformation and contribute to Saudi Vision 2030. I only want to do projects which provide a clear value-add to the Kingdom on multiple levels,” Schramboeck said.
By choosing AlUla, we aim to bring the essence of this extraordinary location to a global audience, shining a spotlight on its cultural and historical importance.
Markus Stampfer, DCL owner
DCL owner Markus Stampfer told Arab News in an exclusive interview: “Our roots lie in physical drone racing and engineering, but, over time, we’ve evolved into a globally accessible esports title. This transformation aligns with the trend of Tourism 3.0, where cities and regions are visualized and digitized.
“This shift has allowed a young audience to be digitally close to World Heritage sites such as the remarkable example in AlUla,” he added. “We’ve achieved our development milestones during the past years to drive this transformation and are proud to be making DCL a global sensation.”
Stampfer also revealed that the league is exploring a return to real-life drone racing alongside virtual events. Several cities have already signed on for this initiative, and there are plans to introduce physical drone racing in Saudi Arabia in 2024.
“This marks a significant step toward achieving the ultimate goal of a hybrid global racing series, seamlessly integrating both digital and real-life experiences,” he said.
AlUla has been at the forefront of sustainable development in the Kingdom through its prestigious sports and adventure offerings, hosting numerous events including the AlUla Camel Cup, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup, the Saudi Tour, and, more recently, AlUla Desert Blaze.
AlUla Old Town was recognized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as one of the world’s Best Tourism Villages in 2022.
Stampfer emphasized that AlUla’s unique backdrop aligns perfectly with DCL’s vision: “It is a special honor to be in a place that is a World Heritage site, offering a unique backdrop that showcases the historical significance of the region. The league places great importance on cultural resonance and AlUla fits perfectly with our vision for creating a memorable and impactful event.
“By choosing AlUla, we aim to bring the essence of this extraordinary location to a global audience, shining a spotlight on its cultural and historical importance,” he added.
Saudi authority showcases AI advancement at Singapore conference
Areeb Al-Owisheq, the AI adviser representing the authority, took part in a workshop titled “Arabic Language Models: Challenges and Opportunities”
Updated 09 December 2023
RIYADH: The Saudi Data and AI Authority participated in the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing in Singapore, highlighting its groundbreaking advancements in large-language-model development.
Areeb Al-Owisheq, the AI adviser representing the authority, took part in a workshop titled “Arabic Language Models: Challenges and Opportunities” during the five-day conference, which runs until Dec. 10.
She showcased the authority’s ambitious initiatives, including the construction of expansive language models, the curation of extensive Arabic datasets, and the development of linguistic models tailored for the Arabic language.
Al-Owisheq underscored the pivotal role of safety considerations in the development of these AI models and noted that “large language models are sophisticated deep-learning constructs trained on vast datasets. Natural Language Processing, a pivotal aspect of artificial intelligence, empowers computers to comprehend, generate, and process human language, allowing effective querying of data using natural language text or speech.”
SDAIA’s participation in the conference reflects its commitment to showcasing Saudi Arabia’s advancements in data and artificial intelligence. The authority aims to position itself as a global leader in these cutting-edge technologies.
These efforts align with SDAIA’S initiatives to transfer, localize, and generate knowledge in the field of artificial intelligence, and to integrate it into the Kingdom’s digital transformation endeavors outlined in Saudi Vision 2030.
SDAIA also unveiled the Sawtak (Your Voice) system during the event. Sawtak employs generative AI techniques to convert speech into text, and, the authority says, “boasts unparalleled precision in recognizing various local dialects and surpassing existing applications in the market.”
Event organized by the Saudi Saline Water Conversion Corp
Updated 09 December 2023
RIYADH: The second Operational Excellence Conference, OPEXKSA, will begin on Dec. 12 in Riyadh, covering “global leadership in operational excellence.”
Organized by the Saudi Saline Water Conversion Corp., the two-day conference emphasizes the role of digital transformation in achieving operational excellence in business, serving as a key platform for knowledge exchange.
The conference will highlight the significance of artificial intelligence, the fourth industrial revolution, sustainability and data in business performance.
It will cover 10 key sectors aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, including Hajj services, water, industry, mining, transportation, logistics, communications, energy, education and digital health. OPEXKSA will also address justice, finance, real estate, agriculture, research, development, innovation, human resources and social development.
Visitors will learn how to tackle challenges in today’s competitive environment through agile business development.
Sessions and workshops held at OPEXKSA will highlight digital transformation as a key pillar for growth and development.
OPEXKSA is hosting more than 100 speakers and will feature international consulting firms, along with government, private and nonprofit entities.
Saudi Arabia arrests 17,257 in single week over residency, labor breaches
Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of Saudi Arabia
Updated 09 December 2023
RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested 17,257 people in one week for breaching residency, work and border security regulations, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.
According to an official report, a total of 11,183 people were arrested for violations of residency laws, while 3,765 were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 2,309 for labor-related issues.
The report showed that among the 481 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 38 percent were Yemeni, 60 percent Ethiopian, and 2 percent were of other nationalities.
A further 62 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and eight were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.
So far, authorities have transferred 45,773 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents, while 2,394 were transferred to complete their travel reservations and 9,369 were deported.
The Saudi Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to be facilitating illegal entry to the Kingdom, including providing transportation and shelter, could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), as well as confiscation of vehicles and property.
Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.
KSrelief projects help people in Pakistan, Lebanon, Sudan
The distribution is part of the second phase of the project to secure and distribute shelter materials and winter bags in Pakistan for 2023-2024
The program comes as part of the relief efforts provided by Saudi Arabia to help people and countries in need around the world
Updated 09 December 2023
RIYADH: Vulnerable communities in Pakistan, Lebanon and Sudan are benefiting from assistance provided by the Saudi aid organization KSrelief, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
KSrelief distributed 514 winter bags in the Gupis-Yasin District of the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, helping 3,598 members of the most vulnerable families in the flood-affected areas.
The distribution is part of the second phase of the project to secure and distribute shelter materials and winter bags in Pakistan for 2023-2024.
The program comes as part of the relief efforts provided by Saudi Arabia to help people and countries in need around the world.
In Lebanon, the center distributed 1,289 shopping vouchers to Syrian refugees and host community members in the northern city of Tripoli, and in the Arsal and Ash-Shouf regions, as part of the second phase of the Winter Clothes Distribution Project for 2023.
The coupons allow refugees and other vulnerable segments from host communities to buy winter clothing at designated stores.
The assistance comes within the framework of the humanitarian and relief projects provided by Saudi Arabia for vulnerable and needy segments around the world.
KSrelief recently signed a cooperation agreement with a civil society organization to equip intensive-care units for children and adults, emergency departments, and surgery sections in seven main hospitals in Sudan’s Gezira, Nile River, White Nile and North states at a total value of SR5 million.
The agreement was signed by KSrelief Assistant Supervisor General for Operations and Programs Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz at the center’s headquarters in Riyadh.
The agreement aims to provide medical equipment, such as emergency devices, anesthesia machines, ventilators, automatic injectors, vital-signs monitoring devices, intensive-care beds and operating beds, to selected departments that will ensure a high-quality health service to 7 million people.
The assistance is part of the Kingdom’s efforts to support the health sector in Sudan amid the humanitarian crisis.
Since its inception in 2015, KSrelief has implemented 2,625 projects worth more than $6.4 billion in 94 countries, in cooperation with 175 local, regional and international partners.
According to a report by the agency, the bulk of the support has gone to Yemen ($4.3 billion), Syria ($384 million), Palestine ($370 million) and Somalia ($227 million).
KSrelief’s programs cover food security, health, sanitation, shelter, nutrition, education, telecommunications and logistics.