Activity in the drone sector has increased exponentially in recent years in Spain: in 2020 alone, the drone operations coordinated by ENAIRE totalled 1,646, a 207% increase compared to 2019 (536) and 362% more than in 2018 (358). These were some of the figures presented by the head of ENAIRE's Drone Business Development Department, Daniel García-Monteavaro, who took part in the seminar "Drones and Spanish talent: Pioneering R&D projects in the aeronautical sector", organised by Garrigues and AEDAE (Spanish Association of Aeronautical and Space Law), where the most innovative drone projects developed in Spain were showcased.
"The increasing activity in the drone sector poses a challenge for safely managing operations in coordination with manned aviation", noted García-Monteavaro, who highlighted the plans of ENAIRE, the national air navigation service provider, to implement the U-space regulation, approved last February and slated to go into effect in 2023. This regulation involves the automated management of drone operations, as well as those associated with Urban Air Mobility (UAM), which are expected for 2025.
In its initial phase, U-space will be constrained to a defined, segregated airspace designated for the exclusive use of drones, although in the future it will be able to guarantee drone operations in all operating environments and airspaces (including at very low levels). For the deployment of U-space, the regulation lays out the services needed for its operation, such as remote identification, authorised flight service, geo-awareness, as well as the "Common Information Service" (CIS), an essential set of dynamic and static data supplied reliably and in real time to ensure the safety and efficiency of operations.
ENAIRE's essential role in managing unmanned aerial traffic
ENAIRE is playing a key role in managing unmanned aerial traffic, and especially as a provider of CIS services nationwide. In this regard, the planning for the deployment of U-space includes, between 2021 and 2022, the validation and implementation of basic services for users, and later, in 2023, the launch of the CISP (Common Information Service Provider). At the same time, ENAIRE will play a secondary role as a public USSP (U-space Service Provider) for government and law enforcement agencies, among others.
Upcoming urban air mobility projects
García-Monteavaro also pointed out some of the most innovative projects in the field of urban air mobility and air taxis. These are pilot initiatives under the Single European Sky (SESAR JU) framework, the flights for which will be carried out in 2022. Specifically, air taxi flights in Spain will begin in Santiago de Compostela (AMU-LED project) and Villacarrillo, Jaén (USPACE4UAM project), as will parcel flights at Playa de Casteldefels in Barcelona (CORUS-XUAM Project).