Malaga Airport is preparing to launch a pilotless drone air taxi service.

Malaga Airport’s Pilotless Air Taxi Initiative

Malaga Airport is set to launch an innovative air taxi service using pilotless drones, with test flights scheduled to commence in mid-2025. Initially, these flights will include a pilot, but the goal is to transition to fully autonomous operations in the near future. Imagine travelling from Malaga to Marbella in just 15 minutes aboard a pilotless air taxi. This futuristic scenario, reminiscent of Jules Verne’s science fiction, is expected to become a reality in a few years, thanks to passenger drones. Malaga Airport is leading the charge in developing new air mobility solutions in Spain.

Enaire, the public company managing air navigation in Spain, along with its R&D subsidiary Crida, selected Malaga Airport for testing this new technology. “In Malaga, we immediately raised our hand,” said Raúl Delgado, head of the control tower, which is pioneering this and other aeronautical research fields. “We have a team passionate about aviation and are committed to positioning the city as a leader in this sector.”

Malaga’s air traffic controllers are involved in two major European projects. The first, Ensure, focuses on the safe coexistence of traditional and new air navigation systems, specifically drone traffic control. The second project, OperA, aims to integrate aerial mobility vehicles with urban centres, facilitating door-to-door transportation while ensuring safe coexistence of both systems.

Projects and Developments

Ensure Project: Focuses on the safe integration of traditional and drone air traffic.

OperA Project: Aims to connect airports with urban centres using aerial mobility vehicles, initially piloted but transitioning to autonomous operation.

    The new aerial urban mobility will use 100% electric vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing. These vehicles are intended to be accessible to all, not just the wealthy. The OperA project plans to build a ‘vertiport’ at the airport, complete with high-power electrical charging stations. Passengers could arrive from London, transfer to a drone, and reach destinations like Granada or Marbella, or even a hotel or home in the countryside, in significantly reduced travel times.

    Future Prospects

    First Test Operations: Scheduled between Malaga and Granada in late 2025.

    Passenger Flights: Expected within three to four years, as regulatory frameworks are expedited.

    Market Interest: Companies in Malaga are already exploring this technology for potential operations, akin to Uber’s involvement in the U.S.

    Malaga’s geographical advantage makes it an attractive hub for future aeronautical operators, especially for connecting with the Costa del Sol, which currently faces mobility challenges. The projected increase in drone operations could see up to 6,000 small aircraft flights daily in a decade, including various uses like surveillance, agriculture, cleaning, parcel delivery, and urban mobility.

    Drone Parcel Delivery

    Another focus is on parcel drones capable of home deliveries. Safe corridors will be created for these drones, operating from logistics centres to cities without interfering with regular air traffic. Amazon, which has pioneered this service in the U.S., already has a distribution centre in Malaga, indicating potential early adoption.

    Leading Innovations

    The first passenger drones likely to fly out of Malaga Airport are being designed by the German firm Lilium. The Lilium Jet, 100% electric with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, can carry four to six passengers at a cruising speed of 280 km/h and a range of 250 kilometers. Hélity, an airline currently operating helicopter services between Malaga, Algeciras, and Ceuta, has shown interest in purchasing five of these air mobility vehicles.

    Malaga Airport’s initiative places it at the forefront of the aviation industry’s future, emphasizing innovation, sustainability, and improved connectivity.

    Author: houseofmarbella


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