Published on July 1st, 2022 | by Alan Dwyer


Digital Skies Cleared for Take-Off

A European consortium coordinated by Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FMCI) in Shannon has been approved by the EU to develop a ‘Digital Sky Demonstrator’, for aerial Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems. The research project, known as ‘EALU-AER’, will see FMCI and its consortium partners conduct engineering work at the FMCI facility to develop, deploy and optimise Europe’s unmanned flight ecosystem. The three-year project valued at circa €7 million involves Irish and European partners including Shannon Group, the Irish Aviation Authority, Collins Aerospace (Ireland and France), Dublin-based Avtrain, Manna 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 the modernisation of air traffic management in Europe. The SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking is a European partnership of private and public-sector entities, established to accelerate the 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 the safe operation of unmanned flights, to help both conventional and unmanned aircraft safely integrate operations.

Commenting on the announcement, the CEO of Future Mobility Campus Ireland, Russell Vickers said, “FMCI couldn’t be more pleased to be working with this consortium on the implementation of the EALU-AER programme. This will result in developing and building out the 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.”

Also commenting was the CEO of the Shannon Group, Mary Considine who said, “This is an exciting initiative in unpiloted aviation management. Shannon Group is delighted to partner on the EALU-AER project and enables 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.”

The CEO of Avtrain, Julie Garland added, “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 segregation of airspace. We look forward to working with Collins Aerospace, FMCI, Shannon Group and our partners in the project to move the industry to the next level.”

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