Germany invests EUR0.5m to research integration of drones at Moenchengladback Airport

Mönchengladbach Airport (MGL) is supporting the SkyTRACKplus project as part of research into sustainable new technologies.

Over the next 18 months, almost EUR500,000 will be invested at the Mönchengladbach site in a robust flight operations concept for the safe, plannable and weather-independent parallel operation of manned and unmanned aircraft. Half of this is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV), with Mönchengladbach Airport alone receiving almost EUR150,000. The SkyTRACKplus research project team includes FH Aachen, Droniq GmbH, Paderborn/Lippstadt Airports, and the City of Mönchengladbach.

The work centres on publishable and controlled flight procedures for air taxis and drones with results available to all airspace users as public domain.

MGL provides a real laboratory with ground and airside infrastructure to test flights and procedures. For this purpose, two drones are being acquired to act as small-scale demonstrators to test the interaction of several unmanned flying objects in a complex airspace. “At Mönchengladbach Airport, we offer the complete infrastructure of a multimodal mobility hub to advance the integration of manned and unmanned airspace participants,” says MGL Managing Director Andreas Ungar.

Concepts developed in this project aim to support sustainable mobility offers in conurbations and pave the way for the use of the manoeuvrable, electrically powered flying objects in the medical sector as well as for the fire brigade, police and disaster control. Highly automated and digitally networked, they reduce the CO2 footprint through electrified flying and optimised route and flight management and noticeably lower noise emissions.

MGL has previously supported SkyCab and Operational Impact of New Propulsion Systems in Aviation (OpAL) projects.

The first test flight of the future air taxi took place in 2021 with a small-scale demonstrator drone from Germandrones in accordance with aviation standards and after approval by the aviation authorities in cooperation with DFS Aviation Services. The demonstrator drone was cleared for take-off by air traffic control in the control zone at MGL Airport during ongoing flight operations. On the entire flight route, Droniq ensured the electronic visibility of the flying object for the remote pilots of Germandrones with its traffic management system (UTM). The combined air situation picture for all air traffic participants is necessary for aircraft and the much lower flying drones and air taxis be safely integrated into the active airspace. In cooperation with Droniq, the interface of the UTM data to the prevailing air traffic system will also be realised within the framework of SkyTRACKplus.

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