October 25, 2017      

ODENSE, Denmark — Drone legislation is not keeping up with the growing industry, and it doesn’t do enough to support end users or operators, said experts at TUS Nordics 2017 here earlier this month. For example, the different Nordic countries have different rules for unmanned systems.

“Right now, the community is asking for rules. A push is needed from the industry,” said Brad Beach, head of the University of Southern Denmark’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (SDU UAS) Center. “In the U.S., there are [registration] regulations, and they are not more advanced than here. Do we replicate the aviation model or see drones as a disruptive technology? There is steady progress in this area.”

Beach has lived in both the U.S. and Europe and compared international drone legislation and support.

“Look at other projects like SESAR [the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research],” he said. “The project was set up in 2004 as the technological pillar of the Single European Sky initiative. They are working for end solutions, workable for all nations. There are steps being taken to create more harmonization in Europe.”

Beach also cited the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems, or JARUS, which includes experts from national aviation authorities. JARUS is working on unified technical, safety, and operational requirements for unmanned aircraft systems.

“Drones will disrupt the entire world, so countries should change existing rules to adapt to new technologies and create jobs,” Beach said.

Business Takeaways:

  • Europe may be behind North America, but it is making progress in developing drone legislation.
  • Drones will disrupt global industry and create jobs, said experts at TUS Nordics, so countries should change their rules to accommodate the technology.
  • Unmanned systems are moving past automatic operations and achieving greater autonomy.

Scandinavia readies drones for takeoff

“I don’t think we are cooperating well enough to really utilize the possibilities our region has,” said Anders Martinsen, general manager at UAS Norway. He explained that his organization is working with its peers in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.

“In the Nordic countries, we have big opportunities with, for instance, testing drones at the glaciers in Norway,” Martinsen said.

In addition, the technology and market are still evolving, and there is room for improvement with commercialization and drone legislation, he said.

“The whole drone industry is characterized by leaving automatic [operations] and entering autonomy,” said Martinsen. “Big players are entering the industry, bringing professionalization.”

“I want a bigger willingness to use existing drone technology — which for many applications is more than ready — and to see a willingness from the senior management to use drones,” he said. “Stop doing research and start using the drone techniques that are ready.”

Drone Research Projects at the SDU UAS Center:

  • BVLOS Fast Track — developing and testing procedures for low-risk beyond visual line of sight flights
  • Drone ID — enabling authorities to identify airborne drones and monitor their activities
  • Drone Inspections of Fences — autonomous inspection of airport fences to detect holes down to a radius of 5 cm (1.9 in.)
  • EcoDrone — using drones to distribute ladybugs to fight crop pests instead of pesticides
  • Free the Drones (FreeD) — using bio-inspired robotics technology for free and safe flight
  • Innovation on Wings — drone development with customers for small and midsize enterprises
  • InvaDrone — survey and response to invasive species
  • UAS-Ability — using drones for climate and environmental research

Drones for windmills and waterways

Denmark’s wind-power industry is actively considering UAS use, said Klaus Lynge Petersen, a senior specialist at Vestas Wind System A/S. He told conference attendees that both Vestas and Siemens Wind Power have the same needs for robotics and drones.

Instead of sending a human to climb up a tower to visually inspect the blades or wings, drones can do so more safely, Lynge Petersen said.

“We are close to sign a contract with a developer. We are to pay for the development and keep the exclusivity,” he said. “We don’t own drones or service companies. But I want to capture the data. Our industry is the turbines, and we are not desperate for drones but interested. We want to support the drone industry.”

Also at TUS Nordics, Aquatic Drones presented its marine systems for autonomous inspection and monitoring of waterways, harbors, and the sea (see image above; source: AquaticDrones.eu).

“In Scandinavia, you have countries surrounded by water, and we have a drone as a stable platform,” said Maarten Ruyssenaers, founder and CEO of Netherlands-based Aquatic Drones.

Subcontractors get busy

Among the 65 exhibitors at the expo were small start-up companies and large drone companies, as well as two subcontractors of international caliber.

ODU Denmark, which supplies connectors to drones, was an exhibitor at TUS Nordics 2017.

ODU Denmark’s Mads Haastrup at TUS Nordics 2017.

“We sell lidar systems in a mechanic housing, and it only weighs 750 grams [1.6 lb.]. It can be used up until the height of 300 meters with a 110-degree field of view,” said Henrik Bostrup, a product manager at SICK A/S. “Besides drones, it is used for anti-collision in trucks and in the robots from Danish company Mobile Industrial Robots.”

ODU Denmark ApS is one of the world’s leading suppliers of connector systems and cables. It has extended this expertise in small and reliable connectors to drones and ground stations.

“It all comes down to making a new technology present. Then over time, we will see it used in places we never imagined,” said Regional Sales Manager Mads Haastrup.

More on Drone Legislation and Global Developments:

Unmanned systems to mature

The Hercules 5 UF from Drone Volt is equipped with a tethered station, providing unlimited power and flight time, according to the French company.

The Hercules could also be used within infrastructure and transportation, providing users with traffic-jam information after monitoring traffic patterns for 14 days.

As both drone legislation and technology mature, suppliers and end users should watch international markets. For example, in China, the industrial drone space is hot, said Dr. Jie Jin, CEO at RobSense Tech Co. and second keynote speaker at TUS Nordics.

About 60% of drone sales are in agriculture, inspection is around 20%, and security and safety are at 10%, he said.

“It is still an early industry, with crashes,” Jin observed. “Unmanned systems will be mature in the next two to five years, with many players in this field.”

“I guess we will see end-to-cloud workflow in drones as a service. Sensors, robotics, and applications will be connected later on. Right now, we are still heavily dependent on humans,” but autonomy should improve, he said.