The LIFT Future Aerospace Centre has started its operation in Finland at the beginning of September. LIFT will bring together actors from the private, public and R&D sectors to create new aviation innovations in response to the growing demand.
At this point, the partners joining the innovation cluster with the host organisation Redstone AERO Oy include VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (Xamk) and the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute FGI. The cooperation is aimed at strengthening research, development and innovation collaboration (RDI) in future aviation, while supporting the emergence of new business within the field in Finland.
Redstone AERO has built a future aerospace research centre at the Helsinki-East Aerodrome, which will provide the facilities for the RDI needs. This will contribute building a strong innovation ecosystem together with relevant partners.
The innovation cluster for future aviation brings together the industry professionals
The new research centre celebrated its opening on 1 September at the Tech Runway event, which was held in Pyhtää for the third time. The Tech Runway conference and expo brought together altogether 300 aviation professionals. In addition to the LIFT members, this year the other key partners of the event were the Association of Finnish Defence and Aerospace Industries - AFDA and Saab. There were also plenty of people representing the authorities and government, such as the police, the Finnish Defence Forces and the Finnish Border Guard, to discuss the changed security situation in Europe.
“VTT sees the role of unmanned aviation growing rapidly worldwide. Finland must seize these revolutionary opportunities and aim for a pioneering role. At the now established LIFT Research Centre, VTT's RDI focus areas include urban air mobility, the development of airspace management for unmanned aviation, drone swarms and the increased autonomy of the solutions,” says Hannu Karvonen, Senior Scientist at VTT.
VTT advances the same themes in the EU's SESAR 3 joint undertaking. The LIFT cluster is planned to function as a home base for bringing together Finnish actors in the industry for EU-level networks and development projects.
Rapid increase in the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS)
This year, unmanned aviation has been in the public eye particularly because such equipment has been used by authorities and for defence purposes. Future developments in the industry will be very interesting in this respect, and LIFT welcomes various actors to join the co-creation efforts.
“The use of UAS in civil solutions and applications for authorities has grown rapidly. However, increasing the use on a large scale will not be possible before the operations of unmanned aviation can be safely integrated with traditional manned aviation. Finland has excellent opportunities and competence to join the development of this future industry,” says Tomi Oravasaari, a professional pilot and pioneer in drone research, who acts as the Director of the RDI unit of NELI (North European Logistics Institute) at Xamk.
“The LIFT Future Aerospace Centre will further strengthen the sector and RDI, as the aerodrome environment is transforming into an excellent testbed, providing an improved framework for the activities,” Oravasaari says. “The LIFT network cooperation and the aerodrome environment provide excellent support for Xamk's applied research, which develops methods for coordinating current manned aviation and drone flight operations in a safety-oriented manner and creates practical solutions for long-distance drone flights between various airports. This paves the way for the emergence of commercial solutions for drone logistics, among other things,” adds Oravasaari.
The aviation sector is currently undergoing a major transformation. New technologies, the coronavirus epidemic and international sanctions have had an extensive impact on the whole sector in recent years. There are hundreds of organisations involved in aviation in Finland. However, the broad scope of the sector is not generally known.
“One of the key competence areas of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) is spatial data research related to drones, which plays a key role in the development of autonomous and low-emission aviation applications of the future. In research, we are developing more efficient, accurate and reliable methods for both localisation and navigation of drones and data analysis than we have today,” says Research Professor Eija Honkavaara from the FGI. The National Land Survey of Finland also carries out significant mapping, aerial photography and laser scanning activities, with both its own equipment and through commissioning the data acquisition from consultants. Each year, a total of ten different aircraft are used for collecting the National Land Survey's mapping data. “The LIFT Research Centre will now open up unprecedented opportunities for RDI activities in the field,” says Honkavaara.
The role of Helsinki-East Aerodrome is growing
The Helsinki-East Aerodrome area is developing into not only the second airport in Helsinki and the Southern Finland region but also a prototype for efficiently operating a new kind of an aerodrome. “Future air traffic and on-demand transport services will need a much denser airport network than we have today. At LIFT, we are developing a concept that allows airports to be planned, built, licensed and operated more efficiently than before. We call the new model by the name digital airport,” says Esa Korjula, Chairman of the Board of Redstone AERO, the company operating the Helsinki-East Aerodrome.
Hannu Karvonen, Senior Scientist, Project Manager and Ecosystem Lead for Autonomous Systems, VTT, +358 400 216 396, [email protected]
Tomi Oravasaari, Director of the RDI Unit, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (Xamk), +358 44 702 8289, [email protected]
Eija Honkavaara, Research Professor, Finnish Geospatial Research Institute FGI, + 358 29 531 4716, [email protected]
Esa Korjula, Chairman of the Board, Redstone AERO Oy, + 358 40 041 4115, [email protected]
More topical information on the subject
The role of drones is growing rapidly in various industries, including inspection, surveillance and time-critical transport. Fast, long-flying and cost-effective drones can cope with challenging environments. Technological developments and active research open up new avenues for them.
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