Drones could benefit society in transport tasks related to healthcare or infrastructure maintenance, among others. However, unmanned flights require many specific solutions that have now been tested in Oulu. At the same time, the initial testing of Finland's first drone corridor was conducted.
BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) operations are demanding tasks that require solutions related to, for example, licensing, airspace management, flight equipment and telecommunications. Central to this is the U-Space airspace, where drones can safely coexist with other aircraft and use airspace services. The U-Space airspace facilitates and, when needed, limits aviation in the desired areas.
Finland's first drone corridor in U-Space airspace
Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) has been investigating solutions for BVLOS operations for a long time. They have now conducted tests alongside Fintraffic on challenging test flights. The flights were carried out between 7 and 8 September in Oulu, within controlled airspace, where the air traffic controller managed both drones and traditional aircraft. A drone corridor had been defined in the airspace where the U-Space system was used for testing traffic control in the lower airspace. The experiences were positive.
‘The flights were realised between the island, the city centre and the airport. Considering the distances and destinations, challenging civil drone flights like these have not previously been carried out in Finland. Our project is unique, and I would like to thank everyone who participated in it’, says Timo Lind, Principal Scientist at VTT.
The first demanding specific category flight was made from Oulu Airport to Hailuoto town hall and back. Flight was done by using a RigiTech Eiger drone. This 35-kilometre journey lasted 25 minutes. The Eiger can carry a 3-kilogram payload, with the cellular network serving as the radio link. The air traffic controller also acted as a U-Space operator. The subsequent flight was made from Oulu’s city centre, from Sonnisaari to Hailuoto and back. The flight plans were prepared and launched and the flights were monitored using U-Space tools.
Drones are a future means of transport
Drones can serve society, for example, in the daily transport of medicines, blood bags and instruments between centres in wellbeing services counties. They can also efficiently and sustainably deliver urgent spare parts and tools for industrial and infrastructural maintenance.
‘Unmanned aviation is advancing globally and will soon become a pivotal mode of transport in Finland. These test flights suggest potential applications not only in urban areas but also in archipelagos and less dense regions. Drones are also being employed for inspections, search and rescue missions, and forest fire detection, says Pasi Nikama, Senior Vice President at Fintraffic Air Navigation Services.
VTT and Fintraffic will be collaborating to develop the future of aviation, paving the way for private entities to pioneer safe urban flight. We welcome all industry stakeholders to join this collaboration.
Pasi Nikama, Senior Vice President, [email protected], +358 40 8482 904
The test flights were part of the Drolo development project funded by Business Finland. For two years, the Drolo project has researched unmanned aviation, BVLOS operations and solutions tested on test flights.
The photographer of the Rigitech Eiger drone photos is Iiro Polso.