The drone industry is growing rapidly. Forum Virium Helsinki solves the development needs of drone transport together with partners. Pilots are an important part of this development work.
Forum Virium Helsinki has invested in the development of drone transport as part of its smart mobility focus area. Forum Virium Helsinki is currently conducting several parallel drone projects with its partners, testing things such as whether drones can be used to support emergency medical services (EMS) and meet other healthcare needs. The projects also examine how drones can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“The advantages of drones include their speed and low emissions. A drone can get to places such as islands and other places difficult to access more easily than modes of land transport,” says Development Director Pekka Koponen from Forum Virium Helsinki.
Koponen says that healthcare-related drone transport is one of the most accepted new services in the drone industry, according to surveys. For example, the transportation of defibrillators, blood products or medications by air may speed up the arrival of help when needed. Drones have also been considered to be a good transport method to places that are difficult to reach.
The drone industry is expected to grow rapidly in coming years. This may have a significant impact on city planning and people’s everyday lives. Forum Virium Helsinki’s drone projects provide the City of Helsinki with information on how the increase in drone traffic must be taken into account in city planning and what kind of role the city may play as a drone flight environment.
Helsinki must find answers to many questions
The largest of Forum Virium Helsinki’s drone projects is the international AiRMOUR project, which will test the transport of EMS personnel or a test dummy and medical supplies by drone to an imaginary accident scene in spring 2023. In addition to carrying out testing, the project seeks solutions to structural challenges, such as the restrictions of aviation legislation, cyber security, and protection of citizens’ privacy. The project also seeks solutions to issues such as noise.
“The city must prepare for an increase in drone traffic and consider factors related to things such as safe routes and drone landing sites,” states AiRMOUR’s Project Manager Renske Martijnse-Hartikka. “Not only this, but also how drones will be connected to existing transport systems.”
Martijnse-Hartikka says that the development of drone operations in the healthcare industry requires close cooperation with aviation authorities, healthcare professionals and City officials. Each sector has its own requirements and regulations – and even its own terminology.
The scope of AiRMOUR’s objectives makes it one of the most ambitious development projects in the area of global urban air mobility. In addition to the direct partner network, the project is supported by operators such as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States.
Lessons learned from pilots lay a foundation for the future
Like Forum Virium Helsinki’s other projects, the drone projects also promote business and the development of services. This autumn, the drone projects have organised several pilots with companies.
In August, Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab tested the delivery of pharmacy products by drone to customers. This pilot involved flying products of the Lauttasaari-based pharmacy Lauttiksen apteekki to Jätkäsaari in cooperation with Third Space Automation. In September, the transportation of an automated external defibrillator by drone was tested in collaboration with the Swedish company Everdrone AB at Helsinki-Malmi Airport. This pilot was part of the Carbon Neutral Drone Service Solutions in Southern Finland project. Another pilot will be carried out in the same project in October, this time with Elisa and Vertical Hobby: the partners will test the operation of remotely controlled 5G drones in relation to Helsinki’s digital twin and traffic counting.
“For now, weather conditions play a major role in the success of transportation operations. We cannot yet guarantee 24/7 deliveries. A stable 4G or 5G connection is also required in densely built areas when drones are flown out of sight,” Koponen says, recounting some of the lessons learned from the pilots.
“All these lessons we learned will be useful as we continue developing urban air mobility with the City of Helsinki and other partners.”
According to Koponen, one major area that needs to be tackled in the future is agreeing upon the shared use of the airspace in rapidly changing situations and finding the best purposes of use for drones. In a densely built urban environment, the airspace is also limited, and the aim is to ensure that the city remains a comfortable place to live.
Photo: The Swedish company Everdrone testing the transportation of a defibrillator by drone at Helsinki-Malmi Airport in September 2021. Photograph by Vesa Laitinen.