The Lleida-Alguaire airport will become a European center of excellence for advancing Air Traffic Management (ATM) and Uncrewed Traffic Management (UTM) innovation. This is a world-first agreement between a company, in this case, Inmarsat, and a commercial airport, currently handled by the Catalan government.
Situated approximately 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the city of Lleida, Lleida-Alguaire Airport is making its runway, full aerodrome, and air traffic control services “available to ground-breaking advanced air mobility research programs,” the UK-based company said in a statement.
With recent estimates anticipating 40 times more commercial uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be flying beyond visual line-of-sight by 2030 than commercial aircraft, Lleida “stands to make a significant and positive contribution towards alleviating the air traffic capacity crunch,” Inmarsat explained.
The new airport partnership “will drive investment and bring more businesses to the local economy of Lleida and the wider region by attracting the aeronautical industry to the area,” the enterprise predicted.
By bringing together research of ATM and UTM technologies, and integrating it with the aeronautical industry, regulators and local government, Inmarsat and Lleida-Alguaire airport can deliver on their shared goal of bringing societal, environmental and commercial benefits of advanced air mobility to the region.
The partnership marks “a significant step forward in the development and testing of advanced air mobility solutions,” Anthony Spouncer, Inmarsat’s Senior Director of UAVs and UTM, said.
“By focusing on unification of airspace, we want to turn concepts into tangible realities that have real-world benefits,” he added in the statement.
“Lleida-Alguaire airport’s new status as a center of excellence for advanced air mobility will place it at the forefront of technological innovation within Catalonia, Europe, and the aeronautical industry,” Jordi Candela, General Director Aeroports de Catalunya, added.
In a move from theory to practice, research conducted by Inmarsat and its partners will take place in installments up to four times per year in the form of real-life, practical demonstrations, as opposed to theoretical whitepapers and academic studies, and will have numerous real-world applications.
“The expertise we’ll be able to benefit from and develop ourselves will be critical to the future of the aviation industry,” Candela concluded.
The Lleida-Alguaire airport will also become, this year, an airfield to integrate drone operations into aerodromes.
The company that handles the airport announced the news during the Expodrónica 2022, an exhibition held in Madrid, regarding drones and new mobility.