‘GROTTAGLIE AIRPORT TEST BED,’ the most advanced research infrastructure in Europe funded.

The Distretto Tecnologico Aerospaziale (DTA) and its partners Politecnico di Bari, University of Bari and University of Salento have kicked off the path for the realization of the Research Infrastructure (IR) ‘Grottaglie Airport Test Bed’ (GATB) already introduced in the National Research Infrastructure Plan (PNIR 2014-2020) and also included in the 2021-2027 plan with enhancement works. The infrastructure was recently funded with 11 million euros, following a tender, by the Apulia Region.

When completed, by 2024, the Gatb will be among the most advanced research infrastructures in the entire European landscape and will contribute to the development of knowledge, research infrastructure, technologies and experimentation for unmanned aerial systems on board (DRONES), for solutions and services for drone air traffic management and innovative air services, with applications in environmental and territorial monitoring and logistics. GATB will also enable research in specific technological areas: space services and data (SATNAV, SATCOM, SATEO, SATMETEO) in support of drone operations, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, innovative propulsion (hybrid, fuelcell), innovative sensors for airborne applications

The ‘Grottaglie Airport Test Bed’ will consist of six advanced technology laboratories and an innovative data center for: the continuous transfer, analysis and management of data and information that will enable the development of innovative flight control applications; data analysis and advanced monitoring services based on artificial intelligence algorithms. The GATB will also be equipped with the capability to coordinate, monitor and acquire data from experimental UAS flights in airspaces adjacent to the airport through a dedicated control room.

The GATB, in line with the EU Drone Strategy 2.0 launched by the European Commission in 2022, will be one of the main European nodes through which the DTA intends to accompany, foster and support the Apulian, Italian and European aerospace research system, both public and private, operating in the broad drone technology sector.

The laboratories, access to the airport runway and airspace, already defined by ENAV for experimentation, will create a unicum in the panorama of national and European Research Infrastructures.

The multiple functions offered by the GATB will allow national and European research operators and companies to find in Puglia the ideal conditions to carry out research, development and testing of products and services in a real operating scenario.

President of the Aerospace Technology District, Giuseppe Acierno, pointed out, “We are facing a new stage in a journey that began almost 10 years ago, as often happens in this sector where we plan and design for the long term, leading us to design and build the first national research infrastructure dedicated to drone testing and experimentation. This is yet another milestone that makes the District’s contribution to the aerospace sector concrete and relevant. We are not stopping here, we now have the goal of making the facility the node of a future European network, further strengthening the District’s role in the international aerospace community, creating new conditions to attract investment and foster new opportunities for businesses and workers.”