SHANNON is set to become a major centre for drone aircraft technology following EU approval for a locally based consortium to develop a ‘Digital Sky Demonstrator’ for aerial Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems.
The research project, known as ‘EALU-AER’, will see the Shannon-based Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FMCI) and its consortium partners develop, deploy and optimise Europe’s unmanned flight ecosystem.
The three-year project involves Irish and European partners including Shannon Group, the Irish Aviation Authority, Collins Aerospace, Dublin-based Avtrain, and Deepblue in Italy.
Work will be based at FMCI’s Advanced Aerial Mobility Research Test and Development Facilities at Shannon, but will include a network of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) routes across Ireland.
FMCI sees this project as ground-breaking new research and a major vote of confidence in Ireland’s resourcing of advanced air mobility development, and in the industry operators and expertise present locally.
The consortium received a three-year funding award from the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking (JU) to develop unmanned aviation business opportunities in Ireland, in a collaborative research project that will also support modernisation of air traffic management in Europe.
SESAR 3 is a European partnership of private and public-sector entities, established to accelerate delivery of the Digital European Sky through research and innovation.
The new funding will be deployed to build an end-to-end ecosystem that supports safe operation of unmanned flights, to help both conventional and unmanned aircraft safely integrate operations.
FMCI chief executive Russell Vickers said the initiative will result in the development of critical infrastructure to allow advanced air mobility proliferate across Europe.
“It will secure access to airspace for large numbers of drones and eVTOL aircraft, resulting in safe, cost-effective and sustainable transport of freight and people in the future,” he explained.
Shannon Group chief executive Mary Considine said they were delighted to enable this important research and development to take place on the Shannon Campus.
“Shannon Airport has been at the forefront of innovation over many decades, and it is essential that we help facilitate and participate in developing the new technology and processes that will allow unpiloted aviation to integrate with legacy airspace,” she added.
Funded by Enterprise Ireland and industry partners, the FMCI campus at Shannon was selected as home to the unmanned flight ecosystem development project, on account of its state-of-the-art digital framework facilities and facilities, including a recently developed Advanced Air Mobility Hub.
FMCI has already worked with Skyports, Avtrain, Shannon Group and Federal Express trialling freight delivery services using autonomous, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations.