Spain’s Valencia to build ‘drone highway’ for UAM services

drone highway Valencia

The city of Valencia is preparing to create a “drone highway” for initial services like the delivery of medicines, and eventually open those up to human transport like air taxis.

Officials in the city of Valencia are working to create the drone highway with the Universitat Politècnica de Valencia, which is particularly strong on tech and innovative study and development programs. The project reportedly got the all-clear after the company that manages Spanish airspace, Enaire, signed a protocol with organizers outlining the corridor’s integration into the national grid. That operational framework covers traditional aircraft, drones, and other urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles. For that reason, initially planned operations like medical and goods deliveries will also be extended to those transporting human passengers when those come into service without a complete regulatory airspace review.

The new drone highway announced this month will serve the city of Valencia itself, and operate in tandem with three existing corridors in the surrounding area. Those link test facilities at the small Siete Aguas aerodrome to the west of Valencia; another in the larger Castello airport to the north of the city; and the third in Mutxamel to the south, close to Alicante. 

Secondary corridors branching from those are currently under examination, with the new highway being launched internal to Valencia itself. All of those are expected to be finished and ready for use some time between 2023 and 2025.

As part of that, all drones operating in Spain will be required to transmit their flight positions and paths to the systems eventually selected to manage airspace by January, 2023. Building the digital infrastructure to coordinate those data flows – and the drone traffic they represent – will be one of the biggest tasks in creating the new highway.

Nevertheless, officials predict that once those navigational coordinating systems are in place, and services up and running, the growth in drone traffic for deliveries and other transportation will rival those of cars in earlier decades.

At the moment, virtually all non-leisure drone flights in the Valencia area are operated by hospitals using UAVs to cut the transport time of vital medicines or equipment between one another, and by Spanish police forces – one of the nation’s most enthusiastic converts to drone technology.

Last summer Spain’s Direccion General de Trafico announced it had more than doubled its previous fleet of 11 drones to 39 craft, helping cops monitor the nation’s highways during the summer travel surge for accidents and illegal activities behind the wheel like texting. And just last October, UAM aircraft maker EHang revealed it had partnered with Spain’s national police to examine potential use of the company’s autonomous aerial vehicles as official transport options in security missions and in responding to emergencies.

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