Denmark is becoming a major focus for the robotics industry, both in Europe and around the world. With its growing reputation — Forbes named Denmark one of the best places to do business, it’s no surprise that people and companies wanting to advance the industry are heading to Denmark. One such individual is American drone expert Brad Beach.
After spending 23 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Beach saw an opportunity in Denmark to use his background in aviation and drones to look for opportunities to grow the industry. He and his family relocated last July to Odense, Denmark, and the following month, he started the Unmanned Aerial Systems Center at the University of Southern Denmark.
“Upon arriving here, it is even better than what I had envisioned”, Beach said. “The combination of industry, the university, the city, the government … everyone is driving in the direction to make the growth of drones a priority here in Denmark.”
Beach was drawn to Denmark in part because of the regulatory processes here.
“An advantage Denmark has is that regulators take a pragmatic and sensible approach, looking to enact regulations that are balanced between industry, technology, and the safety for the public,” he said. “Countries in Europe understand that what business really needs to thrive and grow is a set of rules that they can establish their companies by and then enter into the marketplace.”
Beach is one of more than 100 international industry experts who will be speaking at RoboBusiness Europe, which will take place at the Odense Congress Center this June.
In his presentation, entitled “The Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Unmanned Systems: Air, Ground, Sea, and Space,” Beach will explore the exponential technology advancements shaping present and future unmanned systems across domains.
He will also discuss how the University of Southern Denmark and the UAS center are working to further develop this sector of the robotics industry.
Odense to also host UAS event
Occurring concurrently with RoboBusiness Europe and also at the Congress Center will be the Nordic UAS Event, a three-day gathering also at the Congress Center exclusively focused on the topic of drones.
Nordic UAS is the largest aerial drone expo, conference, and demo in Northern Europe, gathering end users and industry specialists from the Nordic countries and around the world.
Odense is a natural host for these two premiere industry events, having proven itself a major business hub for the European robotics market. The city and the Danish government provide funding for drone research.
In addition, local companies are investing in drone platforms for a wide variety of applications, and multiple universities in the area are developing technologies for successful industry.
“It is really an exciting time here in Odense,” remarked Beach.
Drones develop in Denmark
Odense’s local airport, Hans Christian Andersen Airport, also hosts UAS Test Center Denmark, the country’s national test center for drones.
While they’re referred to by many names — unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned aircraft systems, remotely piloted aircraft, etc. — Beach describes drones in their simplest term as “flying robots.” For the past 10 to 15 years, drones were mainly associated with military uses.
More recently, drones have become popular with hobbyists. These markets have led to increasingly sophisticated devices, as this robotic technology moves into the commercial market and private industry.
Commercial examples of drones include filming real estate and inspecting bridges, oil platforms, and wind turbines. The market is headed for even more growth across Europe and around the globe as regulations are further defined and autonomous and guidance technology continue to develop.
Beach and other experts said they are optimistic that regulatory progress will help the drone market. Both in individual countries and in the EU as a whole, the rules are changing rapidly.
“Each country is taking into account what the overall EU framework is going to be in the future,” explains Beach. “This is important, as it will allow the industry to thrive not only in that particular country, but in the entire EU as they move across borders and open up the entire marketplace for Europe. This will make them more competitive with the U.S., for example, and drone manufacturers in China, Israel, and Japan.”
In Denmark specifically, Beach is pleased by the pragmatic and sensible approach the government is taking. “They [government officials] are looking to enact regulations that are balanced between industry and technology, as well as the safety for the public.”
Currently, the major players involved with drones in Denmark are mostly smaller companies. Take, for instance, Sky-Watch, which has now partnered with the Boeing Co. and is experiencing rapid growth. Beach predicts that as regulations continue to be refined, a “drone ecosystem” will grow, and larger enterprises will become more involved.
Growth areas for drones
Another example of drone uses is in e-commerce, where major companies such as DHL Express and Amazon.com Inc. are investigating their potential. They are interested in how drones could be used to deliver their goods cheaply and efficiently.
Drone technology could lead to fewer vehicles on the road — a plus for environmental initiatives — and help retailers and logistics providers push forward to their goal of getting goods to market faster.
Other areas with growth potential are precision agriculture and security. The mobile robots and their sensors enable farmers to monitor soil conditions or the health of crops. Combined with data analytics, information about specific livestock and plants could help farmers make smarter decisions.
In the security field, drones can continue to expand from military surveillance and forward projection and be implemented for things like emergency services and perimeter control.
The University of Southern Denmark is currently working on just such a project.
“We have a project right now with Energi Fyn in which we are inspecting airport fences and looking for breaks or holes,” Beach said. “This is something that’s going to be applicable in other places outside of Denmark as well –other airfields, for example, in which you are trying to inspect for the security of that installation.”
Drones are even being developed for use in environmental security purposes. “We are developing drones that are able to operate in the arctic and look at our changing environment and the effects of global climate change,” Beach said.
Aerial robots take off
The opportunities are vast, and the EU estimates that in the coming decade, drones will make up 10 percent of the total aviation market, amounting to 15 billion euros ($16.75 billion) per year. This is an area of robotics where the technical and commercial potential is exciting.
More on Danish Robotics:
- 5 Reasons to Attend RoboBusiness Europe This Year
- Universal Robots Hails First ISO Cobot Spec
- Denmark Invests in Industrial Automation, Robotics Education
- Odense: Europe’s Gateway to Robotics
- Denmark Open to Automation as Much of Europe Sours
- RoboBusiness Europe Is Reborn in Denmark
RoboBusiness Europe is excited to put the spotlight on this topic and for Brad Beach to join us in informing and inspiring other industry professionals.
The conference this June will be a great opportunity for both those already working with unmanned systems and those interested in the field to learn more, network with others, and foster potential partnerships.