Istanbul’s under-construction new airport will host an aviation, space and technology festival weeks before its planned opening on Oct. 29, the anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey.
The Aerospace and Technology Festival, or simply “Teknofest Istanbul,” is being organized by the Turkey Technology Team Foundation (T3) to “ignite projects by young people who have already shown that they can compete with the world’s leading universities with only a little support” said Selçuk Bayraktar, the chairman of board of trustees of the T3, at a press meeting on March 7 inside the new airport’s departure terminal.
“If we do not start to develop future technologies now, we will continue to buy them from abroad and face great losses,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that all competition categories in the festival are picked carefully to address Turkey’s future needs.
Bayraktar is the technical manager of his family business, Baykar, whose armed and unarmed drones are currently being used by the Turkish military in the ongoing “Operation Olive Branch” against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s Afrin district.
He said the company is currently working on a 4.5-ton drone that can carry arms up to 1.5 tons, before launching a brand new project on developing unmanned drones.
T3 chairman Mehmet Fatih Kacır said the festival would bring together a unique combination of partners from Turkey’s defense sector, universities and other institutions.
“I think it will be an important step to empowering our institutions’ culture of working together,” Kacır said.
The festival, which will take place between Sept. 20 and 23, is open to competition of “drone fleets,” which Bayraktar named “coveys.”
The organizers are inviting projects in airport systems, drone-supported unmanned land vehicles, unmanned sub-water vehicles, technology for human benefits, auto-drive cars, rockets, armed and unarmed drones, artificial intelligence and satellites, up to the April 1 deadline. The winners from all educational levels starting from middle school will be awarded from 30,000 Turkish Liras (roughly $8,000) to 250,000 liras ($66,000).
The festival will also host air shows from Turkish teams and the entrepreneurs summit.
“We have begun to reap the fruits of the efforts and the will to build a national and domestic defense industry,” Undersecretary for Defense Industries İsmail Demir said at the event.
Selçuk Yaşar, the general manager of Roketsan, Turkey’s missile maker, said the country needs “curious and hardworking youth.”
“We will provide them with both equipment and knowledge. We need passionate rocket makers to take Roketsan to the future,” he said.
Yusuf Akçayoğlu, the CEO of Istanbul Grand Airport, said he felt happy to contribute to the festival, adding that “an army of 36,000” people have been working non-stop to fulfill the deadline for opening the first phase of the airport.
General Ersin Göse, the deputy rector of the National Defense University, which was established in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt to raise officers, said they would be lending full support to the festival.
Boğaziçi University, Gebze Technical University, Istanbul Technical University and Yıldız Technical University are among the other supporters of the festival along with the municipality’s Smart City Technologies Company (İsbak), Turkish Aerospace Industries, Turkish Airlines, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), Invest in Turkey, the Youth and Sports Ministry, Havelsan, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the Istanbul Directorate of Education and state broadcaster TRT.