The Shannon-based project aims to integrate unmanned and conventional aircraft operations to modernize air traffic management in Europe.

A European consortium based in Shannon has received EU funding to develop a flight ecosystem for drones and help integrate unmanned aircraft into our airspace.

Coordinated by Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FMCI), this consortium will carry out a three-year engineering project to develop, deploy and optimize this type of system in Europe.

Describing itself as Ireland’s first “testbed for future mobility”, FMCI is a Shannon Free Zone-based development center focused on innovation in both land and air mobility technology.

Illustration of the Advanced Air Mobility Center at FMCI. Image: FMCI

FMCI said the research project, known as EALU-AER, represents a “major vote of confidence” in Ireland’s local expertise, industry operators and air mobility development resources.

Other members of the consortium include the Shannon Group, the Irish Aviation Authority, Collins Aerospace, Dublin-based Avtrain and Italy’s Deep Blue.

The consortium has been awarded three-year funding to develop unmanned aviation business opportunities in Ireland as part of a collaborative research project that could help modernize air traffic management in Europe.

The consortium said the new funding will help build an end-to-end ecosystem that supports the safe operation of unmanned flights. The goal is to help integrate unmanned and conventional aircraft operations.

“This will result in the development and construction of critical infrastructure to enable the spread of advanced air mobility across Europe,” said FMCI CEO Russell Vickers.

β€œIt will provide airspace access for a large number of drones and eVTOLs [electric vertical take-off and landing] aircraft, resulting in safe, cost-effective and sustainable transportation of goods and people in the future.”

The project’s work will be based at FMCI’s Advanced Air Mobility Test and Development Facility in Shannon, but will include a network of advanced air mobility routes across Ireland.

FMCI has already worked with Avtrain and Shannon Group to test freight delivery services using beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drones.

“We are entering a new era of innovation where the success of the industry will depend on the integration of unmanned aircraft into our airspace, rather than the fragmentation of airspace,” said Avtrain CEO Julie Garland.

Funding for the project came from the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking, which is a partnership of private and public sector entities in the EU aiming to accelerate the delivery of the European Digital Sky through research and innovation.

It comes as people are increasingly looking at the potential of drones and unmanned aerial vehicle technology. A recent Dublin City Council initiative aimed to show how local government can use drones in areas such as civil defence, emergency response, public safety and environmental monitoring.

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