Finland’s drone industry buzzes to new heights

Hardware and software developers are teaming up with local government to put new drone technology to the test in real life situations.

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Large drone in use at 2019 Drone Olympics, Helsinki 5th September 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Drone have become a common sight in the skies above us.

And in Finland they’re seeing a wider range of applications from industry to emergency services, with demand for drones to fill specific niche roles greater than ever.

The country’s first Drone Olympics held in Helsinki and Espoo this week brought enthusiasts and experts out to showcase the latest in drone innovations.

“Drones are revolutionizing trade, logistics, agriculture and forestry as well as research and
security” says Mikko Järvilehto, CEO at Ultrahack, the main organizer of the Drone Olympic event.

While use of drones is still at the ‘early adopter’ stage, Järvilehto sees a great deal of interest from different industries, or emergency services.

“For example, police or rescue department drones can more effectively create a picture for an emergency and support in decision-making for authorities.”

“Drons originated from the military, so all different sectors of society can make use of it. It’s a big game changer for the whole society” he tells News Now Finland.

File picture of Mikko Järvilehti, Drone Olympics organiser, September 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Drone Olympic competition

This week’s Drone Olympics put the flying machines to the test in a range of real life scenarios.

The event gathered around 50 teams from different countries to compete in the events including flight missions and software development.

Some of the situations included mapping canisters in a chemical accident; designing a flight plan for building maintenance; conducting wind turbine inspections; working with emergency response crews and flying in extreme conditions like those found during a harsh Finnish winter.

The Drone Olympics highlighted the emerging possibilities for cooperation between local government and the private sector with the City of Helsinki and the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute challenging competitors to identify and document waste deposits in the sea off Helsinki’s coast.

“We believe that such competition will be a great tool for developing new solutions, and an open-minded Finnish innovation ecosystem provides an excellent framework for it” explains Järvilehto.

Another challenge conducted by the National Resources Institute LUKE and the National Land Survey of Finland NLS, was to build a drone to fly over agricultural land and evaluate the amount of crops, and map the harvest.

“From the point of view of efficiency, it is essential to determine the variation of the crop quickly and accurately in different parts of the field” says Eija Honkavaara, Research Manager NLS.

“Drone remote sensing has a great potential to enhance and automate agriculture” she adds.

Detail of drone operator, Drone Olympics, Helsinki 5th September 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Developing the drone economy 

With so much potential in the drone industry, organisers of this week’s event hope to attract new players as well as sharing innovations.

One company that took part was VideoDrone, Finland’s oldest manufacturer of professional drones since 2011.

CEO Juha Tolonen says that the industry is becoming more and more professional these days.

“Right from the beginning we started to design this [drone], and the professional use was our goal” he says.

“It’s been used for mapping, measurement and nowadays more and more for different kinds of inspections and surveillance” he tells News Now Finland.

With more sectors beginning to wake up to the potential that drones have within different industries, and the mission-specific capabilities being developed all the time, Drone Olympics organiser Mikko Järvilehto says there’s a lot of money to be made.

“According to the latest market research, the global drone service market is estimated to increase at least tenfold over the next five years from the current approximately four billion euros”.