An unmanned air vehicle test range has been established at Taranto-Grottaglie general aviation airport in Italy to allow industry to test its systems safely over land and sea and support research and development.

Formally authorised by the Italian civil aviation authority (ENAC), the test range is the first of its type in the country. The airspace will be managed through NOTAMs in accordance with flight test programmes submitted in advance by interested parties. These will be co-ordinated with military flights, ENAC says.

The airport was chosen because of the airspace it has available for the testing as well as the length of the runway, which can accommodate large prototypes and ground testing.

The Taranto-Grottaglie site includes areas over sea and land. A new regulated airspace has been introduced on main land, while a common space utilised by the Italian air force will be used over sea.

Hammerhead - Piaggio

The Italian Piaggio Aero P.1HH Hammerhead UAV

Piaggio Aero

Alenia Aermacchi manufactures elements of the fuselage of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner at the airport, so there is a low level of cargo traffic going in and out of the airport to transit these parts. This low-level traffic was another reason why Taranto-Grottaglie was chosen for the range, ENAC tells Flightglobal, as was the low population density of the surrounding areas.

“In general terms operations have started already. One manufacturer is on the site putting in place all the activities to start flight tests with a RPAS [remotely-piloted air system] holding a valid permit to fly, and another one has presented to ENAC technical documentation to start tests by this summer,” a representative at the authority says.

ENAC says it expects both national and international interest in the site, as it will accommodate testing a wide range of technology, including civil and military systems. Testing has taken place already, but a ramp up of activity at the test range is expected to begin in June.