The Finnish unmanned aerial systems (UAS) research consortium called FUAVE is establishing a large UAS test area in Oulu with the aim of accelerating and promoting the use and innovation of drones in research and business.
“Through the FUAVE project, a significant centre for the utilisation and testing of drone technology is being built in Oulu”, says Kimmon Paajanen, Project Manager and Digital Innovation Hub leader at Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OAMK). The test area in Oulu will be the first one in a series of UAS test areas in Finland, planned and operated by the FUAVE project. The consortium of FUAVE currently includes several research institutes and about 30 other organisations from Finland. The main contributors of the Oulu test area will be OAMK, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, and the University of Oulu.
The Oulu test area covers the majority of the city of Oulu, but also parts of the surrounding municipalities, such as Hailuoto and Ii. Various experiments are to be carried out in the test area. “With this area, we are trying to make lower the threshold for using drones for different purposes without forgetting the safety aspects”, Paajanen says. A temporary danger area reservation permit has been submitted to Traficom to minimise the aerial risks and help the operations in the area.
In addition to the test area, there is also a significant fleet of drones available for different research and development purposes. Currently, there are 20 different-sized drones and wide variety of payload accessories available for the FUAVE consortium members. The largest and most recent device is currently DJI Agras T20, the drone for agricultural spraying, which weighs nearly 50 kg and can lift a payload of 20 kg. OAMK, VTT and University of Oulu are responsible for the operational safety, information, and user guidance of the test area. The area operator has also licensed drone pilots to support the utilisation of the area and its research activities.
The ultimate aim with the FUAVE test areas and the project is to promote the use of drones in research and business development. Drones are also widely used in the public sector, for example, in search and rescue (SAR) operations. It is believed that the drone area is a new growing industry that will have a lot of growth and momentum in the future when research and development action are done collaboratively. The focus of applied research in this area is moving towards automated flights, drone swarms, automatic traffic management, deployment of different civil applications, data analytics, and the utilisation of new types of sensor technology.
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