Commercial Drones PilotsMalta’s drone innovation ecosystem

November 28, 2021by helo-10
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As Malta continues to define its path towards economic regeneration, over the past few months’ authorities have introduced several plans, supported with both native and international investment, to attract new economic niches. Drone innovation is one of these emerging niches.

Over the last few years Malta Enterprise, the national economic development agency, and the country’s transport regulator Transport Malta have worked together to help create the building blocks of this new industry and now Malta is taking the first steps to serve as a new destination for this field. This is an opportunity both for foreign direct investment as well as for Maltese Companies to, among others, give training, test, as well as build drones in our country.

In February 2021 Malta Enterprise and Transport Malta launched the Malta Drone Innovation Ecosystem whereby drone companies are being invited to build and test their drones as well as train their pilots or operators in Malta.

Authorities will also identify pre-established sites that can be used for commercial drone flying. One such site is a major football stadium on the island – the Hibernians Stadium in Paola. This was possible after an agreement was signed between Malta Enterprise and Hibernians FC which states that while it is not being used for football, parts of the Kordin stadium can be used for drone flying.

On the same day the First Academy licensed in Malta was also announced. Malta Drone Centre ltd, will be investing an initial €500,000 in this project and employing a number of professionals. This licence, which is the first of its kind in Malta, is based on the regulations of the EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) and will make it possible to provide training and preparation for exams in order to operate the many types of drones including those of a certain specialization. This academy, which is a joint venture between a Maltese and a foreign company, was also assisted through business incentives by Malta Enterprise.

Vantage UAV founder and director Richard Scriven who teamed up with Roger Xuereb Archer to create MDC explained that: “Malta Drone Centre Ltd (MDC Ltd), is the first professional drone academy of its kind.” He continued on by saying that: “This milestone is just the end of the beginning, and we are excited for what the future holds for the drone industry both in Malta and internationally.”

Continue to strengthen Malta’s proposition in the aviation industry

Since the launch of the Malta Drone Innovation Ecosystem Malta has attracted new investment and catered for a new set of companies who are ready to take the next step in drone innovation.

Trials for new and innovative takes on inter-island delivery have also taken place. After several successful test flights, the maiden flight for SkyMax was marked in June. SkyMax will be offering the possibility of delivery through unmanned aerial vehicle. At the moment this service has been tested between Malta and Comino however tests between Malta and Gozo will take place in the next months.

SwissDrones, a global manufacturer of long-range unmanned helicopter systems, conducted a series of long-range Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights over water for rigorous maritime patrol, search and rescue, and surveillance mission simulations. The flight operations were enabled through close coordination with a number of Maltese entities including Transport Malta and Malta Enterprise.

Ulrich Amberg, CEO of SwissDrones explained that: “The Malta archipelago offers an ideal geographical location for flight testing in demanding maritime conditions over long distances.” He continued on to say that “Additionally, the nation is a growing hub for robotics and aviation with world-class infrastructure and excellent government support, making it perfectly suitable for establishing a new base of operations.”

In another development Dronamics the world’s leading middle-mile cargo drone developer and operator, unveiled Malta as the first base of operations in Europe for its unmanned drone logistics service. After a detailed selection process with multiple national civil aviation authorities and leading customers in Europe, the company selected Malta as its first European operation base to provide same-day delivery service with the Black Swan drone in 2022.

Malta will serve as a starting point for the first commercial routes the company will offer, connecting the country via air first to mainland Italy followed by other destinations in the Mediterranean and all of Europe.

“Malta is the perfect operational and strategic location for our first flights of the Black Swan. We aim to connect Malta first with Italy where the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) has established testbed airports for remotely pilot aircraft system trials. Transport Malta and the Civil Aviation Directorate have given us a clear path to establishing our first commercial routes and we aim to do the first demonstration flights in 2022,” said Sergio Oliveira e Silva, Chief Operating Officer of Dronamics.

Other Malta-based drone companies are also introducing field changing innovations which are getting international recognition. One of these companies is Dronemail who has developed high speed drones which will allow motorsport races to be shown from the elusive ‘PlayStation Perspective’. They have worked closely with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile which is the governing body for many auto racing events like Formula One to change regulations around this emerging field.

Malta is a long-standing reputable aviation hub and jurisdiction for the registration of aircraft, with more than 500 aircraft listed locally. The vision for a Malta Drone Innovation ecosystem will continue to strengthen Malta’s proposition in the aviation industry while bringing forward new solutions for our communities and businesses.

Anthony David Gatt is Head of External Communications, Malta Enterprise

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