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UAVs are becoming ever more common in the commercial aircraft airspace

Lleida Airport will serve as research centre for drone traffic management

Lleida Airport will serve as research centre for drone traffic management

Commercial unmanned aerial vehicles will far outnumber their crewed counterparts by the end of the decade and solutions are urgently needed

The Regional Government of Catalonia (Generalitat) has joined a research project for the creation of a European centre of excellence for advanced air mobility by granting use of the Lleida-Alguaire Airport to Inmarsat. The latter is a global mobile satellite communications company, which is working on innovation in the field of Air Traffic Management (ATM) and Uncrewed Traffic Management (UTM).

The act is the first such partnering between a public authority and the private sector with the aim of affronting the need to develop reliable traffic management in an increasingly crowded airspace.

There is an anticipation that 40 times more commercial uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be flying beyond visual line-of-sight by 2030 than commercial manned aircraft. The term ‘beyond line-of-sight’ refers to operating drones at higher altitudes where they have to share space with manned aircraft.

Catching up with the future of airspace

Situated approximately 8 kilometres from the city of Lleida, Lleida-Alguaire Airport is making its runway, full aerodrome and air traffic control services available to ground-breaking advanced air mobility research programmes. 

By bringing together research on ATM and UTM technologies, and integrating it with the aeronautical industry, the local government, Inmarsat and the Airport can deliver on their shared goal of bringing societal, environmental and commercial benefits of advanced air mobility to the region.

In a move from theory to practice, research conducted by Inmarsat and its partners will take place in instalments up to four times per year. This will be in the form of real-life, practical demonstrations, as opposed to theoretical whitepapers and academic study, and will have numerous real-world applications.

The efforts made to transform tests and theories into fully-fledged technologies will help to alleviate the major issues facing the aviation industry. Particularly, the issue of capacity crunch and the problem of fragmented airspace.

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