Automatic drones are rapidly becoming part of transport systems in various industries. They have great potential, for example, in construction and aerial surveillance or as part of industry site security solutions. Drones also play an increasing role in critical deliveries, such as the transport of blood and laboratory samples and even that of organs.
These solutions are utilised, for example, in Ghana and Rwanda, where road infrastructure is deficient. There, drones can facilitate transportation to remote areas. For example, coronary vaccines have been delivered in packages dropped by parachutes. Even in Finland, medicine and defibrillator transports have been tried.
VTT carries out a great deal of research and development work related to drones and their systems. The scale is extensive: research topics include autonomous drone operations, airspace control solutions, drones flying in flocks, and drones that can be used to fly for reasonably long distances with low emissions.
The future of drones is outlined at VTT using the impact roadmap for 2022-2026. In 2022, the focus will be on traffic management of the unmanned drones.
Typically, drones fly at altitudes below 120 meters in the airspace, which may also be used by, for example, medical helicopters and the Finnish Border Guard. In order to ensure safety, drones must be able to notify other airspace users of their existence and, possibly, also evade them, says Karvonen.
In 2023, drones flying out of visual range (BVLoS, Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight) will be topical. This requires both proven security solutions, secure telecommunications and video connections. Test areas for testing such flights have already been established in Finland. BVLoS flights are expected to become part of the transport system for critical logistics, security and control environments in around 2024.
In 2025, the trend is already moving towards vertiports, i.e., aerodromes for vertically rising and descending drones. In 2026, it will be possible to try eVTOL flight taxis, which will provide opportunities for rapid transport of medical or rescue personnel, for example.
Note: As part of this year’s ForestTECH 2022 event being run in both New Zealand and Australia in mid-November, one of Australia’s early pioneers and innovators, James Rennie, Director, Australian UAV, (who has undertaken extensive commercial operations with numerous forest companies) will be detailing some of the main trends expected in technology and deployment impacting on operators.
In New Zealand, the Tools for Foresters initiative will also be hosting a practical half-day workshop on standard operational procedures for using UAVs to undertake operational forestry assessments followed up by a session on how to analyse collected data for decision making. The workshop is free to all ForestTECH 2022 delegates.
Full details on the ForestTECH 2022 programme can be found on the event website .