Spain’s national air navigation authority, ENAIRE, has announced plans to begin the country’s first air taxi demonstrations in Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela by 2022.
The news was announced last week by Angel Luis Arias, the General Director of ENAIRE, in a virtual conference organised by the Official College of Aeronautical Engineers of Spain. ENAIRE works on European projects to manage the future mobility of people in urban and peri-urban areas. This will be via flying vehicles and, in particular, air taxis, as well as activities such as drone parcels.
It currently participates in two EU-funded projects, which have just been awarded, financed with European Horizon 2020 funds through the SESAR Joint Undertaking on U-Space and Urban Air Mobility.
Both are scheduled to have air taxi demonstrations in 2022 across Europe, with ENAIRE managing Spain’s first air taxi demo flights.
Arias said: “It is necessary to take urban mobility to the third dimension, to airspace, and to do it in a more efficient and sustainable way.
“ENAIRE, as a public entity of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, is willing to exercise its responsibility and generate a driving and facilitating effect for private sector companies or interested public bodies to allow Spain to be among the leaders in the development and operation of this new sector.”
No details have been revealed about which eVTOL aircraft manufacturer will be involved in the flight testing, but this latest announcement reflects the growing momentum in Europe to introduce Urban Air Mobility operations in its cities.
In September, Volocopter was announced as the ‘first industrial partner’ in the Paris Region’s Urban Air Mobility project, which will allow the company to test its VoloCity eVTOL aircraft in the French capital next year.
And Chinese firm EHang is also pursuing operations in Spain, after signing strategic agreements with Lliria and Seville. Additionally, it is working with authorities in Linz, Austria, and plans to conduct an Urban Air Mobility trial in the city using its flagship two-seater, aerial autonomous vehicle (AAV) – the 216.
Arias stressed the U-Space concept under development in Europe will be essential to allow this new air mobility. U-space is a set of new services and specific procedures designed to support safe, efficient and secure access to airspace for large numbers of drones.
These services rely on a high level of digitalisation and automation of functions, whether they are on board the drone itself, or are part of the ground-based environment.
U-space also provides an enabling framework to support routine drone operations, as well as a clear and effective interface to manned aviation, ATM/ANS service providers and authorities.
ENAIRE has been working intensively on U-Space since its inception by the European Commission, with the publication of the ‘U-Space Blueprint’ in 2017, collaborating and participating in national and international projects.
It provides aerodrome control service in 21 airports, including those with the highest traffic, and en-route and approach control, through five control centers: Barcelona, Madrid, Gran Canaria, Palma and Seville.
In addition, it also provides communication, navigation and surveillance services to 45 air control towers.