Ireland to host EU-backed project to create drone UTM system

A drone platform based in Shannon, Ireland, will host a project to research and test a wide range of UAV business and public service applications within a project to develop a fully integrated uncrewed traffic management system (UTM).

The effort will be run from the Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FMCI) in the Shannon Free Zone, which was founded as a nonprofit endeavor to research, test, and develop next-generation mobility innovations. That will now include a project dubbed ÉALÚ-AER ­–­ “Escape-Air, Enhanced Automation for U-Space/ATM integration” for non-Irish speakers – involving a consortium working under European Union programs to create operational drone UTMs and ecosystems.

In addition to agencies within the EU’s Single European Sky initiative like the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking, ÉALÚ-AER partners include the Shannon Group, the Irish Aviation Authority, Dublin-based Avtrain, Manna Drone Delivery, Italy’s Deepblue, and Collins Aerospace.

One element of the effort will be to develop both existing and new drone applications for food and product deliveries, emergency response, agriculture uses, and even personal transportation like air taxi services. 

The other aspect will be establishing a UTM system for drones –  many of which in the trials will be operating in beyond visual line of sight missions – that can be integrated in Ireland’s wider airspace.  The resulting “Digital Sky Demonstrator” may serve as a model for EU cities and regions seeking to establish similar UAV and smaller craft navigation networks.

The three-year program will function as part of the EU’s SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking, which is spearheading the drive to develop new, sustainable, tech-based air traffic management across Europe. Consortium participants will also receive EU funding for the work.

“This award will help us work with our partners to create new opportunities in Ireland to support safe and connected unmanned flight,” said Boe Svatek, uncrewed systems value stream leader for Collins Aerospace. “As a founding member of the SESAR 3 JU, we can actively support its quest to modernize European air traffic management.”

Launched last year, Shannon’s FMCI is also developing ground infrastructure with Skyports, Avtrain, and other drone sector companies designing and constructing facilities for cargo and other UAV service operators, as well as a vertiport for looming air taxi transportation.

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