Inmarsat Velaris: Lleida-Alguaire Airport to become AAM research hub



Lleida-Alguaire Airport will become a European hub for testing and demonstrating AAM research programmes following an agreement between the Government of Catalonia and Inmarsat’s Velaris Partner Network. 

Situated approximately 5m (8km) from the city of Lleida, the airport is giving over its runway, aerodrome and air traffic control services to advancing Air Traffic Management (ATM) and Uncrewed Traffic Management (UTM) technology.

Recent estimates anticipate 40 times more commercial uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be flying beyond visual line-of-sight by 2030 than commercial aircraft.

Anthony Spouncer, Inmarsat’s senior director of UAVs and UTM, said: “Inmarsat’s partnership with the Government of Catalonia and Lledia-Alguaire Airport marks a significant step forward in the development and testing of advanced air mobility solutions. By focusing on unification of airspace, we want to turn concepts into tangible realities that have real-world benefits. There is no time to waste when it comes to bringing our airspace into the future. As our consortium grows, we hope to welcome more partners as we establish Lledia-Alguaire as a world-leading facility.”

Designed and developed specifically for the commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) sector, Inmarsat’s Velaris is a combination of a scalable Command and Control (C2) service and software from the partner network including Dimetor and Bellwether Industries.

It is hoped the partnership can establish AAM in the Catalonia region by bringing together research of ATM and UTM technologies, and integrating it with the aeronautical industry, regulators and local government.

Jordi Candela, general director, Aeroports de Catalunya, said: “Lledia-Alguaire Airport’s new status as a centre of excellence for advanced air mobility will place it at the forefront of technological innovation within Catalonia, Europe, and the aeronautical industry.”

Being a part of Inmarsat’s Velaris Partner Network will ensure that the centre can access a network of experts dedicated to a common goal, said Candela: “Developing technology that will transform the future of both ATM and UTM. The expertise we’ll be able to benefit from, and develop ourselves, will be critical to the future of the aviation industry – and we look forward to making this a reality.”

Research conducted by Inmarsat and its partners will take place in instalments up to four times per year in the form of practical demonstrations, as opposed to theoretical white papers and academic study, it said.